Learning From Locusts

Fifty years ago President Kennedy established the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:

. . . We will look to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a concentrated attack on the unsolved health problems of children and of mother-infant relationships. This legislation will encourage imaginative research into the complex processes of human development from conception to old age. . . For the first time, we will have an institute to promote studies directed at the entire life process rather than toward specific diseases or illnesses.
—John F. Kennedy, October 17, 1962

The founding vision was to support world class research into human development spanning the entire lifetime, with an emphasis on pregnancy as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Congress named the institute after Eunice Kennedy Shriver in honor of her advocacy for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

The mission of the NICHD is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation.


To accomplish this mission,  NIHCD broadly supports laboratory, clinical and epidemiological research.  It is not always obvious how laboratory research relates to human health care, and given the description of the NICHD mission, insect studies, for example, may not be the first kind of research that springs to mind as fitting the bill.  The following video explains why locust research is relevant to humans, and why what we learn about the sense of smell is important to our understanding of neural networks, with implications for neural disorders.

Megan Wyeth