The Brain: Our Sense of Self
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National Institutes of Health website National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website


National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website

The Brain: Our Sense of Self

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About NIH

About the National Institutes of Health

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Begun as the one-room Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers and the federal focal point for health research in the United States.

Mission and Goals

The NIH mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The goals of the agency are to

NIH works toward meeting those goals by providing leadership, direction, and grant support to programs designed to improve the health of the nation through research in the


Composed of 27 separate institutes and centers, NIH is one of eight health agencies of the Public Health Service within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH encompasses 75 buildings on more than 300 acres in Bethesda, Md., as well as facilities at several other sites in the United States. The NIH budget has grown from about $300 in 1887 to more than $27.8 billion in 2004.

Research Programs

One of NIH’s principal concerns is to invest wisely the tax dollars entrusted to it for the support and conduct of this research. Approximately 82 percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts supporting research and training in more than 2,000 research institutions throughout the United States and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are located in every state in the country. These grants and contracts make up the NIH Extramural Research Program.

Approximately 10 percent of the budget goes to NIH’s Intramural Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in its own laboratories. These projects are central to the NIH scientific effort. First-rate intramural scientists collaborate with one another regardless of institute affiliation or scientific discipline and have the intellectual freedom to pursue their research leads in NIH’s own laboratories. These explorations range from basic biology to behavioral research to studies on treatment of major diseases.

Grant-Making Process

The grant-making process begins with an idea that an individual scientist describes in a written application for a research grant. The project might be small, or it might involve millions of dollars. The project might become useful immediately as a diagnostic test or new treatment, or it might involve studies of basic biological processes whose clinical value may not be apparent for many years.

Each research grant application undergoes peer review. A panel of scientific experts, primarily from outside the government, who are active and productive researchers in the biomedical sciences, first evaluates the scientific merit of the application. Then, a national advisory council or board, composed of eminent scientists as well as members of the public who are interested in health issues or the biomedical sciences, determines the project’s overall merit and priority in advancing the research agenda of the particular NIH funding institutes.

About 38,500 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the NIH peer-review system. At any given time, NIH supports 35,000 grants in universities, medical schools, and other research and research training institutions, both nationally and internationally.

NIH Nobelists

The roster of people who have conducted NIH research or who have received NIH support over the years includes some of the world’s most illustrious scientists and physicians. Among them are 115 winners of Nobel Prizes for achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and identifying the causes of hepatitis.

Five Nobelists made their prize-winning discoveries in NIH laboratories. You can learn more about Nobelists who have received NIH support at

Impact on the Nation’s Health

Through its research, NIH has played a major role in making possible many achievements over the past few decades, including

For more information about NIH, visit

About the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

NINDS Vision

The vision of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is to

  1. Lead the neuroscience community in shaping the future of research and its relationship to brain diseases.
  2. Build an intramural program that is the model for modern collaborative neuroscience research.
  3. Develop the next generation of basic and clinical neuroscientists through inspiration and resource support.
  4. Seize opportunities to focus our resources to rapidly translate scientific discoveries into prevention, treatment, and cures.
  5. Be the first place the public turns to for authoritative neuroscience research information.


One of the National Institutes of Health’s 27 Institutes and Centers (ICs), NINDS has occupied a central position in the world of neuroscience for more than 50 years. Its extramural program supports approximately 2,240 research project grants and 85 research contracts. Institutional training grants and individual fellowships support 585 scientists in training; another 246 “career awards” provide a range of research experience and support for faculty members at various levels. Scientists in the Institute’s laboratories and clinics conduct research in most of the major areas of neuroscience and many of the most important and challenging neurological disorders. Currently, 644 staff members support the Institute’s efforts.

The Institute’s interests, broad as they are, are not limited to NINDS programs. The Institute collaborates widely with other NIH components, almost all of which support neuroscience research in areas of mutual interest. Even broader interest is focused on topics such as genomic analysis and selected research resources. Many collaborations are already in place, and it is our hope that the planning process will inspire more. The Institute has a history of productive collaborations with other agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as nonprofit organizations and industry. We shall strive to maintain and expand these relationships.

NINDS Mission

The mission of NINDS is to reduce the burden of neurological disease—a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.

To support this mission, NINDS

For information on neurological disorders, including brochures that might be of interest to your students, please go to

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