neuronal network electrical activity

Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide and present an extraordinary challenge for health science research. Given that many neurological conditions occur in individuals with no known family history, understanding the role of environmental risk factors in the development of neurological dysfunction may lead to promising new targets for intervention and prevention. In support of this effort, NIEHS is committed to advancing research exploring how environmental exposures may affect brain health and disease.

Neuroscience is integrated across several of the seven “Goals for Advancing Environmental Health Sciences” in the NIEHS Strategic Plan 2018-2023, and it was subsequently identified by NIEHS Director Rick Woychik as a new scientific priority area for the institute.

The Faculty for Advancing Neuroscience (FAN) Cross-divisional Group was created to bring together interested parties across NIEHS to help understand the impact of environmental exposures on the central nervous system. The group has identified cross-cutting interests and potential collaborative activities in the promotion of neuroscience at NIEHS, including:

  • Analysis of exposure effects at the circuit level
  • Developmental neurotoxicology
  • Exploration of the link between environmental factors and mental health
  • Functional imaging
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Translation of findings from humans / basic science studies

The group is made up of representatives from the Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Toxicology Program, and Division of Intramural Research.

Discussions have focused on recently developed tools and methods in neuroscience research, including:

  • Advances in computer-vision facilitated monitoring of animal behavior.
  • Applications of in vivo neuroimaging to understand the biology of neurological diseases.
  • Optogenetic and chemogenetic approaches to study learning and memory processes that are affected by environmental exposures.

It is anticipated over the next several years that activities for this NIEHS cross-divisional effort will include workshops, mini-symposiums, and webinars that explore cutting-edge resources in neuroscience that can be better incorporated in neurotoxicological research.

Activities Under Discussion

The FAN group is currently discussing or starting work on the following efforts:

  • Promoting NIEHS Initiatives and Advancing Environmental Health Science (Cross-divisional faculty Seminar Series).
  • Cross-divisional postdoctoral positions in neurotoxicology.
  • Development of a new Web-based tool for autism and the environment (aWARE).


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For Additional Information

For additional information about current neuroscience research grants funded by NIEHS, visit our Who We Fund tool.