About Blueprint

The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, known as "Blueprint", is a collaborative framework that includes the NIH Office of the Director and 14 NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system. By pooling resources and expertise, Blueprint identifies cross-cutting areas of research, and confronts challenges too large for any single Institute or Center.

Blueprint makes collaboration a day-to-day part of how the NIH does business in neuroscience, complementing the basic missions of Blueprint partners. During each fiscal year, the partners contribute a small percentage of their funds to a common pool. Since Blueprint's inception in 2004, this pool has comprised less than 1 percent of the total neuroscience research budget of the partners.

The BRAIN Initiative‚Ą†

During 2012 and 2013, as the Grand Challenges (described below) moved forward successfully, the Blueprint Directors considered additional projects, including suggestions from both internal and external sources. Within the wider community beyond NIH there had also been recognition that recent technical advances have brought neuroscience research to a watershed moment. In April 2013, President Obama unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies‚Ą† (BRAIN) Initiative, a coordinated effort among public and private institutions and agencies aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. NIH has a large role in this effort and Blueprint will be focusing its efforts and a large portion of its funding in 2014 on the initial high priority research areas established by the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Working Group.

Blueprint Grand Challenges

In 2009, the Blueprint Grand Challenges were launched to catalyze research with the potential to transform our basic understanding of the brain and our approaches to treating brain disorders.

  • The Human Connectome Project is an effort to map the connections within the healthy brain. It is expected to help answer questions about how genes influence brain connectivity, and how this in turn relates to mood, personality and behavior. The investigators are collecting brain imaging data, plus genetic and behavioral data from 1,200 adults. They are working to optimize brain imaging techniques to see the brain's wiring in unprecedented detail.
  • The Grand Challenge on Pain supports research to understand the changes in the nervous system that cause acute, temporary pain to become chronic. The initiative is supporting multi-investigator projects to partner researchers in the pain field with researchers in the neuroplasticity field.
  • The Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network is helping small labs develop new drugs for nervous system disorders. The Network provides research funding, plus access to millions of dollars worth of services and expertise to assist in every step of the drug development process, from laboratory studies to preparation for clinical trials. Project teams across the U.S. have received funding to pursue drugs for conditions from vision loss to neurodegenerative disease to depression.

Blueprint Resources

Since its inception in 2004, Blueprint has supported the development of new resources, tools and opportunities for neuroscientists. For example, Blueprint supports several training programs to help students pursue interdisciplinary areas of neuroscience, and to bring students from underrepresented groups into the neurosciences. Blueprint has also funded efforts to develop new approaches to teaching neuroscience through K-12 instruction, museum exhibits and web-based platforms. From fiscal years 2007 to 2009, Blueprint focused on three major themes of neuroscience - neurodegeneration, neurodevelopment, and neuroplasticity. These efforts enabled unique funding opportunities and training programs, and helped establish new resources that continue to be available to researchers and the general public today. These resources include the following:  

Further information about the Blueprint's history and goals is available in a 2006 article in the Journal of Neuroscience.