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NNCI Synapse: Development of a Mobile Application to Disseminate Neuroscience Training to Medical Professionals

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 4R44MH115546-02
Agency Tracking Number: R44MH115546
Amount: $1,390,615.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 102
Solicitation Number: PA14-197
Timeline
Solicitation Year: 2014
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-09-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-08-31
Small Business Information
200 RESERVOIR STREET, SUITE 202
Needham, MA 02494-3146
United States
DUNS: 621513451
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 KATHLEEN FERREIRA
 (617) 467-6014
 kferreira@c4innovates.com
Business Contact
 KRISTEN PAQUETTE
Phone: (617) 467-6014
Email: kpaquette@center4si.com
Research Institution
N/A
Abstract

While biological models of mental illness once emphasized “chemical imbalances,” modern perspectives
increasingly incorporate a more nuanced understanding of genetics and epigenetics, neurotransmitters and
neuroplasticity, and the functional dynamics of neural circuits. Yet despite extraordinary advances in
neuroscience that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of the brain and of the neurobiological basis
of psychiatric illness, the field of psychiatry has been slow to integrate a robust neuroscience perspective into
clinical practice. Most practicing psychiatrists trained in an era before the advent of modern neuroscience, and
residency programs lack resources to create curricula on their own.
This Fast-Track SBIR will leverage the resources and experience of the National Neuroscience Curriculum
Initiative (NNCI) to create and test NNCI Synapse: Where Learning Takes Place, a beautifully designed,
intuitive mobile application that promotes self-directed learning for mental health professionals to initiate,
customize, and complete innovative courses of self-study in clinical neuroscience. NNCI Synapse will reimagine
the NNCI learning experience with the added utility, user experience, and convenience of a mobile
platform. Content will include animated videos, audio podcasts, and case studies, with a strong focus on the
use of narrative storytelling, and users will be awarded continuing education credits for learning activities.
In Phase I, a pilot study will be conducted with psychiatrists (n=40) and will achieve the following aims: 1)
develop a prototype of NNCI Synapse; and, 2) assess feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of
the product for a fully powered Phase II clinical trial. During this mixed methods pilot study, a pre-post study
design will be used to explore changes in knowledge, skills, and attitudes and semi-structured interviews will
be conducted to gather data on feasibility and acceptability of NNCI Synapse for neuroscience education.
Phase II will employ a randomized non-blinded prospective lagged start single crossover design with
psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses (n=100) and will achieve the following aims:
1) refine, expand, and finalize NNCI Synapse based on Phase I findings; 2) assess the effectiveness of NNCI
Synapse in improving mental health professionals’ attitudes toward clinical neuroscience, understanding of
core content, and ability to apply this content to clinical scenarios; and 3) determine whether improvements in
outcomes are related to individuals’ patterns of use of NNCI Synapse.
The research team is confident that users of NNCI Synapse will increase understanding of the biological
underpinnings of psychiatric illnesses and their relevance to clinical work and will be better equipped with the
knowledge and skills to communicate with patients about cutting edge discoveries in neuroscience. These
gains will offer practitioners the opportunity to create a new dialogue with patients, their families, and other
health care professionals about the cause and meaning of psychiatric symptoms.Despite extraordinary advances in neuroscience that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of the
brain and the neurobiological basis of psychiatric illness, the field of psychiatry has been slow to integrate a
robust neuroscience perspective into clinical practice. NNCI Synapse: Where Learning Takes Place will deliver
a beautifully designed, intuitive mobile application that promotes self-directed learning for mental health
professionals to initiate, customize, and complete innovative courses of self-study in clinical neuroscience.
Users of NNCI Synapse will increase understanding of the biological underpinnings of psychiatric illnesses and
their relevance to clinical work and will be better equipped with the knowledge and skills to communicate with
patients about cutting edge discoveries in neuroscience.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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