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Board strategy (NMHB)

The Neurosciences and Mental Health Board (NMHB) aims to develop scientific knowledge that extends our understanding of disorders of the human nervous system such that new interventions and treatments can be developed. This includes and is underpinned by fundamental research into development, function and disorders of the human nervous system, which informs our understanding of the mechanism of disease. To support fundamental discovery research relating to the human nervous system, the Board strongly encourages the use of experimental studies in humans or human tissue and, when human studies are not possible, in silico systems or relevant animal models.

Working with other MRC initiatives and partners, the Board seeks to ensure that the insights it supports are translated into health benefits, and that the UK has the necessary infrastructure, skills and expertise to fulfil its aims.

To deliver against its areas of strategic focus, listed below, the Board supports the development of strategic partnerships and initiatives and is seeking to develop its portfolio of investigator-led awards through Board Opportunities. Grants meeting Board Opportunity criteria will be prioritised for consideration in Board funding decisions.

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Mental health

The MRC supports world-class mental health research, creating new opportunities to treat and prevent mental illness. The MRC’s strategy for lifelong mental health (PDF, 750KB) was published in early 2017. This strategy informs the Board’s future direction and strategic priorities in mental health research. This strategy builds on the MRC’s strengths in integrative discovery science – linking across genes, animal studies, human psychological studies, in vivo imaging and circuit biology in the context of childhood development and adulthood and experimental medicine. The key elements of the strategy are:

  • lifelong perspective to mental health with a focus on children and adolescents
  • co-morbidity of physical and mental health
  • stratification for mental health research
  • harness data using informatics as a tool
  • global mental health
  • prevention of mental illness, Drawing together biological, social and environmental factors and identifying opportunities for action in early life is an important area for the UK Prevention Research Partnership as well as for NMHB.
  • build capacity


The Board continues to support research in this area through its regular mechanisms to complement the work of the Dementias Platform UK and the UK Dementia Research Institute. More information on our work on neurodegeneration associated with the dementias can be found on our web pages. Other neurodegenerative research that we support includes conditions that result in progressive degeneration or death of nerve cells, including multiple sclerosis, disorders of the auditory, visual, motor and autonomic nervous systems.

Insight into the living human brain

To better understand the human brain, the Board recognises the need to gain detailed knowledge of human neuronal and glial cell biology, neural circuitry and neurovasculature spanning different levels of spatial and temporal resolution and the interplay with one another. This knowledge may provide novel insights for developing new treatments for neurological disorders.

Bringing together expertise from fields such as (but not limited to) neurosurgery, electrophysiology, microscopy, gene editing and computational neuroscience may help unpack the complex challenges of studying living human brain tissue.

Global Health

Global Health is a key MRC strategic aim. NMHB has developed a strategy to support research in this domain, particularly in the area of mental health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Through the Global Challenges Research Fund the Board has supported new research and new research partnerships through a bespoke call “Confidence in Global Mental Health Research”, which were institutional ‘pump-priming’ awards to develop new opportunities in Global Mental Health Research. Further opportunities in Global Health are supported through the Board’s response mode schemes and a further, bespoke call in 2018.

Drawing on past successes

The Board has several other areas that it has supported in the past through targeted initiatives. The Board pays attention to these areas to ensure that they maintain momentum. These areas are: hearing research; addiction; neuroimaging; and neurodevelopmental disorders.