Full Text DC-97-003
 
NIDCD-NASA CENTER FOR VESTIBULAR RESEARCH
 
NIH GUIDE, Volume 26, Number 28, August 22, 1997
 
RFA:  DC-97-003
 
P.T.


Keywords: 

 
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
 
Letter of Intent Receipt Date:  December 8, 1997
Application Receipt Date:  January 8, 1998
 
PURPOSE
 
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
(NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in collaboration
with the Life Sciences Division of the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), invites applications for the support of a
center to carry out a program of ground-based research and research
training in the vestibular system relevant to the research missions
of both the NIDCD and NASA.  The research focus of the Center shall
be on:  1) the role of the vestibular system in spatial cognition
(spatial orientation and spatial navigation), and/or 2) the role of
the vestibular system in the control of balance and spatially
directed motor performance.  In addition to the conduct of research,
the Center shall provide research training to predoctoral and
postdoctoral trainees.
 
HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000
 
The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health
promotion and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000,"
a PHS-led national activity for setting priority areas.  This RFA,
NIDCD-NASA Center for Vestibular Research, is related to the priority
areas of physical activity fitness, educational and community-based
programs, unintentional injuries, occupational safety and health,
diabetes and chronic disabling diseases, clinical prevention services
and human resource development.  Potential applicants may obtain a
copy of "Healthy People 2000" (Full Report:  Stock No.
017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00473-1)
through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402-9325 (telephone 202-512-1800).
 
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
 
Applications may be submitted by domestic for-profit and non-profit
organizations, public and private, such as universities, colleges,
hospitals, laboratories, units of state and local governments, and
eligible agencies of the Federal government.  Foreign applicants are
not eligible for this initiative.
 
MECHANISM OF SUPPORT
 
This RFA will use the NIH Comprehensive Center (P60) grant mechanism.
The Application Guidelines for Program Project and Clinical Research
Center Grants issued by the NIDCD (rev. Aug 1997) applies to this
solicitation, unless otherwise noted in the present RFA, and should
be consulted by the applicant.  In addition, certain provisions of
the NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) Program for
Institutional Research Training Grants (NIH Guide for Grants and
Contracts, Vol. 26, No. 16, May 16, 1997; Vol. 26, No. 21, June 20,
1997) apply to the training component of this solicitation.  The
total project period for applications submitted in response to this
RFA must be five years. Responsibility for the planning, direction,
and execution of the proposed project shall be solely that of the
applicant.
 
FUNDS AVAILABLE
 
This RFA is a one-time solicitation.  One Center will be supported
jointly by NIDCD and NASA for a project period of five years, at a
level of up to $1.2 million total costs [direct cost plus facilities
and administrative allowance (indirect cost)] for Year One. Budget
increments for subsequent years will be limited in accordance with
current NIH policy.  The anticipated award date will be August 1,
1998. At present, the NIDCD and NASA have made no commitment to
continue support for this initiative beyond five years.
 
RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
 
Background
 
The importance of vestibular function in the spatial cognition and
motor performance of humans in both the terrestrial and aerospace
environments has long been recognized.  Vestibular-deficient
individuals, including astronauts during flight and in the early
postflight period, show abnormalities in trunk and head coordination.
Indeed, acute vestibulogenic changes, such as lesions of the
vestibular system or the functional unloading of the otolithic
gravity receptors in space, often result in dramatic symptoms of
imbalance and disorientation, including reduced muscle tone, gait and
postural ataxia, and illusory self-orientation and self-motion
sensations.  Typically, these symptoms abate as central nervous
system motor programs for the reinterpretation of sensory inputs and
coordination of muscle actions undergo adaptation.
 
Spatial orientation refers to the correct recognition of one's
location in space.  Spatial navigation refers to the planning and
execution of movement from one point to another, and is predicated on
remembering changes in spatial location.  Several lines of research
have shown that vestibular information is important, although not
sufficient, for spatial orientation and navigation.  Populations of
neurons ["place cells" and "head direction (HD) cells"] have been
identified in the mammalian hippocampus and related thalamic and
neocortical regions that appear to be part of an internal network
that generates an abstract internal representation of two-dimensional
extrapersonal space that an organism uses for spatial navigation.
While visual landmarks become secondarily bound to this network
through associative learning, the internal reference appears to be
adopted in the absence of external cues.  While HD cell activity
appears to reflect a high degree of intersensory convergence,
bilateral labyrinthectomy has been shown in one experimental model to
abolish this activity.  Morphophysiologic studies in the primate have
described a pathway from the vestibular nuclei to the "parietal
insular vestibular cortex" (PIVC) in the parietal lobe.  Neurons in
the region of this pathway have been shown to respond to angular
acceleration of the head, but not to static head tilt or linear
motion.  How vestibular information reaches the subcortical limbic
regions and the neocortex and how this information is used in spatial
cognition remains to be demonstrated.
 
Several lines of evidence support the contemporary view that the
vestibular, somatosensory and visual systems play a direct and
prominent role in terrestrial balance control, although the specific
role of each remains to be elucidated.  Inputs from these and other
sensory modalities are integrated by the central nervous system and
referenced against the brain's cognitive store to determine whether
the organism or the environment is stationary or in motion.  Complex
activation patterns of the arm, leg, trunk, and neck muscles to
reorient the body with respect to relevant cues are then generated.
To date, systematic study of the contributions of the vestibular
system to balance control has been limited.  Early studies have
underscored the primacy of proprioceptive afferent signals from the
lower leg muscles in postural control.  Yet, there is convincing
anatomic and physiologic evidence of the convergence and interaction
of the vestibular and somatosensory systems at multiple levels
throughout the neuroaxis, at both the sensory input and motor output
stages.  Patients with vestibular loss have been shown to exhibit
alterations in the magnitude, timing, pattern and adaptation of
stabilizing reactions to mechanical support surface perturbations.
Recent studies suggest that the vestibular system maintains the
orientation and stability of the head and the trunk to shape the
formation of body-stabilizing motor patterns, rather than triggering
fast postural adjustments to maintain equilibrium in response to
destabilizing support surface perturbations.
 
Scope
 
This initiative is for the recompetition of an RFA, originally issued
by the NIDCD and NASA in 1992, for the support of a center to carry
out a program of ground-based research and research training in
balance and the vestibular system.  The original RFA focused on the
role of the vestibular system in the control of balance and spatially
directed motor performance.  The scientific purview of the present
RFA has been broadened to encompass the contributions of the
vestibular system to: 1) spatial cognition (spatial orientation and
spatial navigation), and 2) balance and spatially directed motor
performance.  Applicants for this program should address one or both
of these themes and include approaches to improve performance of
individuals with impaired vestibular function.  Knowledge generated
from this research program will provide a solid empirical basis for
the improved rehabilitation of patients with balance disorders and
for management of the sensorimotor and perceptual difficulties
associated with space travel, particularly during long-duration space
missions.
 
The Center shall employ an integrative neuroscience approach to the
understanding of the vestibular bases of spatial navigation and/or
balance control, encompassing a continuum of approaches from
reductionistic to systems-level and integrated systems-levels.  A
management plan shall be developed to facilitate communication and
collaborative interactions among Center investigators.
 
The purpose of the research training component of the Center is to
develop highly trained scientists to carry out the Nation's
biomedical and behavioral research agenda in the balance, vestibular
and motor control systems on earth and in space.  The Center shall
provide support for three predoctoral and two postdoctoral full-time
training positions (FTTPs) per annum, to be distributed across three
or more research projects of the application.  The Center program
director shall be responsible for the selection and appointment of
all trainees.  The institution must submit a completed NRSA Statement
of Appointment (PHS Form 2271) for each trainee appointed to the
Center.  Trainee appointments shall be made in twelve month
increments.  No short-term trainee positions are provided by this
program.  To the maximum extent possible, trainees shall be provided
the opportunity to rotate across two or more projects of the Center
during their traineeship appointment. While stipends and otherallow
able expenses for research trainees will be provided from the
Center's funds, the stipend levels and the levels of support for
tuition and fees, including self-only medical insurance, shall be set
according to the schedule of the NRSA program.  However, trainees do
not need to meet NRSA eligibility requirement for citizenship or
permanent residence in the United States.  The time limits of support
under the NRSA program are not applicable to this initiative.
Furthermore, trainees on the Center do not incur a service payback
obligation.
 
The application should document the past research training record of
both the program (if applicable) and the designated preceptors;
indications of the success of former trainees should be included.
 
A specific plan to recruit research trainees from underrepresented
minority groups must be included within the research training
component of the application.  Information on this requirement of the
Institutional NRSA program was published in the NIH Guide for Grants
and Contracts, Vol. 26, No. 16, May 16, 1997, "NRSA Institutional
Research Training Grants".
 
Every predoctoral and postdoctoral trainee supported by the Center
must receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research,
including policies regarding the use of human and animal subjects.
Applicants are required to include a description of their plan to
provide this training.  (For more information on this provision, see
the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Vol. 26, No. 16, May 16,
1997).
 
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
 
The program director and one additional investigator of the Center
shall meet annually in the Washington, DC area with the scientific
program staffs of the Division of Human Communication, NIDCD, and the
Life Sciences Division, NASA, to review the progress of the Center in
the areas of research, research coordination and research training.
Budget requests for travel must reflect the costs associated with
this meeting.
 
INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN
SUBJECTS
 
It is the policy of NIH that women and members of minority groups and
their subpopulations must be included in all NIH supported biomedical
and behavioral research projects involving human subjects, unless a
clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided that
inclusion is inappropriate with respect to the health of the subjects
or the purpose of the research.  This policy results from the NIH
Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public Law 103-43).  All
investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read
the "NIH Guidelines For Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects
in Clinical Research", which have been published in the Federal
Register of March 28, 1994 (FR 59 14508-14513), and in the NIH Guide
for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23, Number 11, March 18, 1994.
Investigators may obtain copies from these sources or from the
program staff or contact person listed under INQUIRIES.  Program
staff will, on request, provide additional relevant information
concerning the policy.
 
LETTER OF INTENT
 
Prospective applicants are asked to submit, by December 8, 1997, a
letter of intent that includes a short description of the proposed
application, the name, address, telephone number and email address of
the Center director, the identities of other key personnel and
participating institutions, and the number and title of this RFA.
 
Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does
not enter into the review of subsequent applications, the information
that it contains is helpful in planning for the review of
applications. It allows NIDCD staff to estimate the potential review
workload and to avoid conflict of interest in the review.
 
The letter of intent is to be sent to
 
Acting Chief, Scientific Review Branch
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
6120 Executive Boulevard, Room 400-C - MSC 7180
Bethesda, MD  20892-7180
Rockville, MD 20852 (for express/courier service)
ATTN:  Vestibular Research Center
Telephone:  (301) 496-8683
FAX:  (301) 402-6250
 
APPLICATION PROCEDURES
 
Applications are to be submitted on the grant application form PHS
398 (rev. 5/95).  These forms are available at most institutional
offices of sponsored research, from the program administrator listed
under INQUIRIES, as well as from the Office of Extramural Outreach
and Information Resources, National Institutes of Health, 6701
Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, telephone
301/435-0714, FAX 301/480-0525, email:  ASKNIH@ODROCKM1.OD.NIH.GOV.
The PHS 398 form is also available electronically on the NIH Home
Page at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/phs398.
 
The RFA label available in the PHS 398 (rev. 5/95) application form
must be affixed to the bottom of the face page of the application.
Failure to use this label could result in delayed processing of the
application such that it may not reach the review committee in time
for review.  In addition, the RFA title and number (NIDCD-NASA Center
for Vestibular Research, DC-97-003) must be typed on line 2 of the
face page of the application form and the YES box must be marked.
Instructions for completing the application are found in the PHS 398
form.
 
Submit a signed, typewritten original of the application, including
the Checklist, and three signed photocopies, in one package to:
 
DIVISION OF RESEARCH GRANTS
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
6701 ROCKLEDGE DRIVE, ROOM 1040 - MSC 7710
BETHESDA, MD  20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD  20817 (for express/courier service)
 
At the time of submission, two additional copies of the application
must be sent to:
 
Acting Chief, Scientific Review Branch
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
6120 Executive Boulevard, Room 400-C - MSC 7180
Bethesda, MD  20892-7180
Rockville, MD 20852 (for express/courier service)
 
Applications must be postmarked by January 8, 1998.  If an
application postmarked later than that date is received, it will be
returned to the applicant without review.  The Division of Research
Grants (DRG) will not accept any application in response to this RFA
that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial review,
unless the applicant withdraws the pending application.  The DRG will
not accept any application that is essentially the same as one
already reviewed.  This does not preclude the submission of
substantial revisions of applications already reviewed.
 
REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS
 
Applications that are complete and responsive to the RFA (as judged
by NIDCD and NASA program staff) will be evaluated for scientific and
technical merit by an appropriate peer review group convened by the
NIDCD and NASA in accordance with the standard NIH peer review
procedures.  Applications that are not responsive to the RFA will be
returned to the applicant without review.  As part of the initial
merit review, all applications will receive a written critique and
may undergo a process in which only those applications deemed to have
the highest scientific merit, generally the top half of applications
under review, will be discussed and assigned a priority score.  For a
center grant application to receive further consideration for
support, it must consist of at least three projects, each found to
have significant and substantial merit, for the duration of the
project period.  The second level of review will be provided by the
National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council
and the NASA Life Sciences Division.
 
Review Criteria
 
The following review criteria will be applied by the peer review
group:
 
a. The criteria for reviewing the Center as an integrated effort are:
 
o adequacy of plans for interaction and communication of information
among the collaborating investigators;
 
o coordination and interrelationship among the research projects and
cores and the relationship of the objectives of individual projects
to the common theme of the application;
 
o demonstrated administrative and scientific skills of the Center
director and his/her commitment of sufficient time and effort for
effective leadership;
 
o participation of a suitable number of appropriately qualified
investigators;
 
o organizational and administrative structure appropriate to meet the
program objectives;
 
o mechanisms in place for the internal quality control of ongoing
research projects, the allocation of funds, day-to-day management,
collaborative arrangements with other institutions, if any;
 
o adequacy of resources and facilities to support the components of
the Center;
 
o  institutional commitment to the requirements of the Center; and
 
o  appropriateness of the overall budget for the proposed program.
 
b.  The criteria for reviewing individual research projects are:
 
o  adherence to the scientific requirements of the RFA;
 
o significance, approach, innovation, investigator(s) and
environment(s) of individual projects, as established by the NIH for
the review and rating of unsolicited research grant and other
applications (NIH Guide, Vol. 26, No. 22, June 27, 1997);
 
o commitment of the investigators, and their ability to devote the
required time and effort to the project;
 
o appropriateness of the proposed budget and timetable in relation to
the scope of the research project;
 
o  adequacy of the means proposed for the protection of human and
animal subjects; and
 
o adequacy of plans for the inclusion of both genders and minority
individuals in study populations.
 
c. The criteria for reviewing core units are:
 
o utility of the core unit to the Center and the appropriateness of
each research project's use of core services; each core must provide
essential facilities or services to two or more projects judged to
have substantial scientific merit;
 
o quality of the facilities and services provided through the core;
 
o qualifications, experience and commitment of the personnel involved
in the core; and
 
o cost effectiveness of the core.
 
d. The criteria for reviewing the research training component are:
 
o the objectives and design of the research training component;
 
o past research training record of both the program (if applicable)
and the designated preceptors, as determined by the success of former
trainees in seeking further career development and/or in establishing
productive scientific careers;
 
o caliber of the preceptors as researchers;
 
o adequacy of the training environment, including the level of
institutional commitment, quality of the research facilities and
availability of appropriate courses (if applicable);
 
o recruitment and selection plans for trainees, including trainees
from underrepresented minority groups, and the availability of high
quality candidates; and
 
o adequacy of the plan for instruction in the responsible conduct of
research.
 
AWARD CRITERIA
 
Up to one center grant will be awarded by NIDCD and NASA in response
to this RFA.  The anticipated date of award is August 1, 1998.  The
following criteria will be considered in making funding decisions:
 
o  Responsiveness of the proposed program to the purpose of this RFA;
o  Quality of the proposed program, as determined by peer review; and
o  Availability of funds for this initiative .
 
INQUIRIES
 
Inquiries concerning this RFA are encouraged.  Consultation with
NIDCD staff is strongly encouraged, especially during the planning
phase of the application process, in order to ensure that the
application is responsive to research and research training goals of
this initiative.
 
Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues to:
 
Daniel A. Sklare, Ph.D.
Division of Human Communication
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
6120 Executive Boulevard, Room 400-C - MSC 7180
Bethesda, MD  20892-7180
Rockville, MD 20852 (for express/courier service)
Telephone:  (301) 496-1804
FAX:  (301) 402-6251
Email:  daniel_sklare@nih.gov
 
Direct inquiries regarding fiscal matters to:
 
Sharon Hunt
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Executive Plaza South
6120 Executive Boulevard, Room 400-B - MSC 7180
Bethesda, MD  20892-7180
Rockville, MD 20852 (for express/courier service)
Telephone:  (301) 402-0909
FAX:  (301) 402-1758
Email:  sh79f@nih.gov
 
AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS
 
This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance No. 93.173.  Awards are made under the authority of the
Public Health Service Act, Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410, as
amended by Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 241 and 285) and administered
under PHS grant policies and Federal Regulations at 42 CFR 52 and 45
CFR Part 74.  This program is not subject to the intergovernmental
review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency
review.
 
The PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to
provide a smoke-free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco
products. In addition, Public Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of
1994, prohibits smoking in certain facilities (or in some cases, any
portion of a facility) in which regular or routine education,
library, day care, health care or early childhood development
services are provided to children.  This is consistent with the PHS
mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of the
American people.
 
.

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