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Mind and Body Research—Information for Researchers



Mind and body research encompasses a wide variety of interventions that are based in physical procedures or techniques administered or taught to others by a trained practitioner or teacher. From a research perspective, these interventions, practices, and disciplines all share certain characteristics that create similar challenges in designing rigorous and definitive clinical investigations of their benefit and safety. For example, (1) it is generally difficult or impossible to mask practitioners and/or participants involved in clinical research, (2) claims about benefit often relate to subjective clinical outcomes, (3) in practice, the interventions are often individualized, or they are complicated procedures that are difficult to systematize or characterize fully, and (4) means to objectively measure the impact of the interventions on important biological processes are frequently lacking.

Research Priorities

Although many mind and body interventions are widely used or offered by practitioners, strong evidence about whether they are safe and offer clinical benefit is often lacking. To design and carry out rigorous clinical research on these approaches, it is important to have insight into their biological effects and the mechanisms of action by which they impact physiology. NCCIH’s 2016 Strategic Plan emphasizes fundamental research to advance understanding of the mechanisms through which mind and body approaches affect health, resiliency, and well-being. The research strategies described in the plan also include clinical studies on the potential roles of mind and body approaches in symptom management and health promotion and the development of novel technologies and instruments, including diagnostic methods, tools, and sensors, to facilitate rigorous research on their effects.

Emerging evidence of promising clinical effects of many mind and body approaches points toward important opportunities to advance the science and practice of symptom management and health promotion. In many cases the evidence is strengthened by an intriguing and growing body of basic and clinical research employing the tools and technology of the fields of neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, psychology, behavioral medicine, physical medicine, and biomechanics. Addressing the scientific and operational challenges confronting the study of promising mind and body interventions requires continued efforts to foster multidisciplinary collaboration aimed at engaging the expertise and experience of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners and utilizing the tools and technologies of a variety of scientific disciplines.

Developing insight into biological, physiological effects and mechanisms of action of mind and body interventions is critically important in developing translational research tools to design and execute maximally informative clinical research. It is a crucial component of the scientific evidence base guiding clinical practice and public use and has the potential to inform other fields of biomedical research.

Rigorous study of all clinical interventions requires the use of a well-established methodology. Large clinical studies are an essential component of the evidence base regarding clinical efficacy or effectiveness. To implement such studies, the magnitude and nature of treatment effects must be estimated in preliminary studies, treatment algorithms must be developed and validated, and feasibility of accrual must be established. Methods need to be in place to measure consistency and fidelity of protocol implementation, practitioner variability, and adherence of participants to the regimens being studied. In addition, well-characterized and meaningful clinical and laboratory outcome measures are needed to fully determine safety, and to definitively measure benefit or lack thereof.

NCCIH Funding Opportunities

NCCIH issues specific funding announcements for narrow areas of high priority. However, we will accept mind and body research applications through a number of investigator-initiated grant mechanisms. These include the Parent R01 and R21 announcements, the Omnibus SBIR (R43/R44) and STTR (R41/R42) announcements, and the various training mechanisms including fellowships (F), mentored training (K), and institutional training (T).

Examples of Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) related to mind and body interventions include:

  • Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM (P01)
  • Healthy Habits: Timing for Developing Sustainable Healthy Behaviors in Children and Adolescents (R01)
  • Biology of Manual Therapies (R01)
  • Mechanisms, Models, Measurement, and Management in Pain Research (R01)
  • Mechanisms, Measurement, and Management of Pain in Aging: from Molecular to Clinical (R01)

View all active funding opportunity announcements (FOAs)

Past NCCIH Research

NCCIH Contact Information

You may find it helpful to discuss your proposed research with an NCCIH staff member prior to submitting a grant application. Each program staff member is responsible for coordinating scientific research portfolios in various scientific areas.

Review scientific portfolio areas and contact an NCCIH Program Director.

If you have general questions about mind and body research funding, please contact: