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NCCIH Research Blog

New Funding Opportunity To Investigate the Neural Circuitry of Interoception

October 26, 2020

Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.

Wen Chen, Ph.D.

Branch Chief and Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Last month, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, a collaborative framework through which 14 NIH institutes, centers, and offices jointly support neuroscience-related research, announced an exciting funding opportunity (RFA-AT-21-003) for investigating the neural circuitry of interoception. The announcement asks for applications from researchers with innovative approaches for defining interoception at a molecular, cellular, circuitry, functional, or behavioral level. Interoception is the way an organism senses, interprets, integrates, and regulates signals originating from within itself.

If you are interested in applying for funding and need help preparing your application, here are some tips:

  • Align your application with the purpose, objective, and scope presented in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
    • Purpose: Your research should focus on determining and dissecting the function of the interoceptive neural pathways that connect peripheral organs or tissues with the central nervous system through the peripheral ganglia.
    • Objective: This NIH Blueprint initiative aims to support innovation in neural circuit mapping and assessments of interoception function.
    • Scope: The “Research Objectives and Scope” section of the FOA (under Section I) includes details about the organisms and physiological systems that are within the scope of this initiative.
  • Carefully review the FOA for the definitions, key components, and processes involved in interoception.
  • Include a description and analysis of the brain and peripheral neural pathways included in your study.
  • Clearly describe any interoceptive signals, interoceptors, central interpreters and integrators, central regulators, and regulating signals you plan to investigate.
  • Investigate and discuss at least one potential neuroanatomical tract including a brain region and a peripheral organ with an assessment of the interoceptive function of that neural circuitry.
  • Review the agenda, program book, and video archives of the NIH Blueprint workshop The Science of Interoception and Its Roles in Nervous System Disorders.

Here are a few additional things to keep in mind:

  • Don't include human subjects in your study. However, studies that use animal models are encouraged. Invertebrate models are acceptable and their relevance to human interoceptive systems should be justified. Research using mammal models is preferred as a higher program priority.
  • Don't submit applications for studying the pathophysiology of disease mechanisms, therapeutics, or treatments. Disease models are acceptable only if they help show the difference between normal and abnormal interoceptive processes. Therapeutic approaches are acceptable only if they show how interoceptive processes could be manipulated.
  • Don't include any contingency plans for the COVID-19 pandemic in your application. After you submit your application, you may submit one page of additional preliminary data up to 30 days before the application review meeting. NIH has provided more information on the review process during the COVID-19 pandemic. NIH has also posted additional guidance about post-submission materials for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 applications. 
  • Don't miss the deadline! Applications are due December 18, 2020.

Unsure if your potential study falls within the scope of this FOA? Send your questions and a brief summary of your proposed research to NCCIHBlueprintIntero@mail.nih.gov.

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