Notice of Special Interest in High Priority Research Areas for Sex and Gender Influences on the Adolescent Brain and the Mental Health of Girls and Young Women (Ages 12-24)

Notice Number: NOT-MH-19-039

Key Dates
Release Date: September 9, 2019
First Available Due Date: October 5, 2019
Expiration Date: May 18, 2022

Related Announcements

PA-19-092 , NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)

PA-18-350, NIMH Exploratory/ Development Research Grant (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

PA-19-091, NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required)

PA-19-055, Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Required)

PAR-18-701, Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY) Research Centers (P50 Clinical Trial Optional)

Issued by
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Purpose

The purpose of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to outline NIMH priorities for potential applications in the field of women’s mental health research, specifically during the adolescent and young adult period. This notice does not in any diminish the importance of NIMH sponsored women’s mental health research across the lifespan.

The NIMH encourages multidisciplinary research projects to examine biological, social, cultural and behavioral contributions of sex and gender influences on mental health and illness (e.g., anxiety, depression, suicide, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, trauma related disorders, eating disorders, etc.) in adolescent girls and young women. Research is needed to identify biomarkers and behavioral indicators that predict risk trajectories of mental illness. Additionally, translational research is needed that applies recent basic research discoveries and identifies opportunities to advance clinical research and mental health services research. Prevention and intervention projects that consider the impact of biological as well as social, cultural, and gender-based target mechanisms on mental health outcomes are also encouraged.

Background:

Global epidemiological data consistently reports up to 20% of children and adolescents suffer from a disabling mental illness; suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents and up to 50% of all adult mental illnesses have their onset in adolescence. Recent global trends show rising rates of depressive disorders among adolescent girls and young women when compared to adolescent boys and young men. Research findings indicate that early adverse experiences may compromise brain and behavioral development and the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young adults. Relevant gender specific research findings indicate “(1) that gender differences in adults emerge at young ages; (2) the influence of gender roles and expectations on the expression and interpretation of behavioral and emotional symptoms, are different for boys and girls; and (3) gender is a modifier of the (mental) illness risks and protective factors that can be identified at the genetic, neurobiological and psychosocial levels.” Equally important is research that incorporates sex as a significant biological variable, for preclinical research and clinical research, that recognizes that sex, defined as being XY or XX, is a construct derived from chromosomal complement. As such, sex is an important biologic variable in preclinical research that informs the premise and design of clinical research. Current findings demonstrate that sex affects health status, including disease presentation, pathophysiology, and therapeutic response. Together, the combination of both sex and gender influences not only strengthen study design but also advance human health.

Given the biological, social and cultural changes that impact adolescents and young adults, the NIMH seeks studies that explore sex and gender influences on the development of the adolescent brain and adolescent mental health of girls and young women.

Research areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Basic and Behavioral Neuroscience

  • Hypothesis driven sex-specific research on brain development and intrinsic and extrinsic influences on neural pathways in basic research during adolescence or young adult.

Translational Research

  • Hypothesis-driven cross-sectional clinical and translational studies focused on gender and sex differences in mental illnesses and/or transdiagnostic conceptualization of emotional and behavioral function during adolescence and young adulthood period.
  • Therapeutic treatment studies informed by sex differences during adolescence.
  • Better integration of biological indices of pubertal changes into longitudinal studies, that disentangles age, pubertal/developmental changes, and different aspects of pubertal development as it relates to mental health risks.
  • Greater understanding of proximal mental health risks associated with hormone fluctuations across the menstrual cycle, rather than onset age of menarche.
  • Biomarker studies to inform understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder risk trajectories and resilience in adolescent girls and young women.

Interventions Development and Services Research

  • Secondary data analyses of large datasets to identify sex differences in risk factors for mental illness, including environmental stressors, early exposure to trauma/gender-based violence, and social stress in childhood or adolescence. For secondary analyses studies, applications are encouraged to respond to RFA-MH-20-110.
  • Sex differences in help-seeking behaviors and attitudes during adolescence and young adulthood that may inform sex-specific and gender-specific intervention strategies or strategies that promote intervention engagement and/or adherence.
  • Development and testing of adaptations to existing evidence-based interventions that clearly target sex or gender specific factors with the goal of improving intervention effectiveness during adolescence and young adulthood.
  • Interventions that capitalize on the use of digital health technology more broadly to identify important phenomenological sex and gender differences (such as in resource utilization, situational response to stressors, and relationship between self-report and peripheral measures of stress) as well as to improve continuity of mental health care during the young adult transition period.

HIV/AIDS Research

  • Studies that advance understanding of how mental health trajectories impact risk of HIV infection during adolescence and young adulthood.
  • Studies that advance understanding of how mental health trajectories impact low uptake of and adherence to biomedical HIV prevention during adolescence and the young adult period.
  • Mental health intervention research that considers the unique developmental context of adolescence and young adulthood to improve HIV prevention or care continuum outcomes.

Research Areas of interest shared across the NIMH

  • Mental Health studies that examine risk and resilience factors related to exploring sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) development among adolescent girls and young women. For more information on the NIMH’s interests in areas of Sexual Gender Minority research refer to (NOT-MD-19-001).
  • Studies that identify factors contributing to increased risk and/or burden of mental health conditions in girls and young women in traditionally understudied, underserved and underreported populations. For more information on research areas of interest on the health of women of understudied, underrepresented, and underreported populations refer to PA-18-676
  • Greater understanding of mental health risks for adolescent and young adult mothers during pregnancy and the postnatal period. For more information on NIMH’s interest in areas of perinatal mental health refer to https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-MH-15-013.html
  • Studies examining risk factors that contribute to peripartum psychopathology. For more information on NIMH’s interest in areas of perinatal mental health refer to https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-MH-15-013.html

Application and Submission Information:

This notice applies to due dates on or after October 5, 2019 and subsequent receipt dates through May 18, 2022. The following funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) or their reissued equivalents must be used for submissions for this initiative. Although NIMH is not listed as a Participating Organization in all the FOAs listed below, applications for this initiative will be accepted.

Activity Code FOA First Available Due Date
R21 PA-19-092, NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required) October 16, 2019
R21 PA-18-350, NIMH Exploratory/ Development Research Grant (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) October 16, 2019
R01 PA-19-091, NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required) October 5, 2019
R01 PA-19-055, Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Required) October 5, 2019
P50 PAR-18-701, Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY) Research Centers (P50 Clinical Trial Optional) May 18, 2020

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and the listed funding opportunity announcements must be followed, with the following additions:

For funding consideration, applicants must include “NOT-MH-19-039” (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative. Applications nonresponsive to the terms of this notice will not be considered for this initiative.

The NIMH encourages multidisciplinary collaborations that interweave basic science and translational research to identify actionable targets for mechanisms that spur the development of innovative mental health interventions for girls and young women. In addition, NIMH encourages investigators to draw on existing large scale comprehensive multidomain research such as the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Project and the Human Connectome Project in Development (HCP-D), other longitudinal studies, existing research cores, CTSAs, or other institutional assets in the design of their projects.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Scientific/Research Contact:
Tamara Lewis Johnson, MPH, MBA
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: (301)594-7963
Email: tamara.lewisjohnson@nih.gov