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Neuroscience

Understanding how the brain processes the sensory world, executes cognitive functions and gives rise to emotions, as well as uncovering how these functions deteriorate in disease, represent the greatest challenges of the 21st century. To meet this call, a major focus of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences has been to form the Northwestern Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience (NCPN). The center will focus on understanding how genetic and epigenetic factors, immune activation, and environmental and social stress impact brain structure and function to contribute to the development and exacerbation of major mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and addictions.

 
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Tina Boisseau, PhD

Boisseau leads the SOAR Lab, which strives to examine the emotional and behavioral factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders.

Tina Boisseau, PhD, focuses on designing interventions to improve the long-term treatment and outcome of patients with emotional disorders, with particular emphasis on OCD and anxiety disorders. Boisseau leads the SOAR Lab, which focuses primarily on two intersecting areas: 1) the hypothesis-driven development and adaptation of empirically-supported treatments and 2) the use of translational research methods to identify critical, transdiagnostic mechanisms of dysfunction and barriers to recovery. A secondary focus of the laboratory is on eating disorders, particularly as they relate to other OC spectrum conditions.

Currently, in collaboration with researchers at Brown Medical School, the lab is investigating harm avoidance and incompleteness as dimensional endophenotypes in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions (R01 NIMH R01 MH110449). They are also analyzing data from our naturalistic, prospective study of OCD.

For inquiries about this research, please email ocdanxietylab@northwestern.edu or visit the lab site.

 
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Mehmet Dokucu, MD, PhD

Dokucu is involved in clinical and translational research involving brain stimulation therapies, TMS, ECT, neuromodulation and cancer psychiatry.

Contact

710 N. Lake Shore Drive
Room 1324
Chicago, IL 60611

For inquiries about the research of Mehmet Dokucu, MD, PhD, please contact m-dokucu@northwestern.edu.

 
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Lisanne Jenkins, PhD

Jenkins co-directs the Neuroimaging and Applied Computational Anatomy Laboratory (NIACAL), which uses a multimodal neuroimaging and interdisciplinary approach to affective neuroscience, including the study of neural networks involved in emotion and reward as well as their dysfunction in psychiatric disorders.

Lisanne Jenkins, PhD, co-directs the Neuroimaging and Applied Computational Anatomy Laboratory (NIACAL) with lab founder Lei Wang, PhD, now at The Ohio State University. Current lab members include PhD candidate Ashley Heywood, Research Assistant Sonya Gupta and psychiatry resident Samantha Patel. NIACAL seeks to develop multidimensional and multimodal neuroimaging biomarkers using tools of computational anatomy.

In 2020 Jenkins was awarded a KL2 from Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NUCATS) for the project "Structural brain network properties of neuropsychiatric symptoms across dementias." This project uses connectomics to analyse structural brain networks across behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Jenkins relates findings in brain networks important for emotional salience, reward processing and cognitive control to neuropsychiatric symptoms involving emotion dysregulation, including apathy and disinhibition.

Jenkins is also the Northwestern PI for a multisite neuroimaging study titled "Trajectories of Emotion Regulation and related Brain Regions And Intrinsic Networks" (TERBO BRAIN). This project is part of the Pediatric HIV/AIDS cohort study (PHACS). Youths who were perinatally exposed to HIV perform fMRI tasks which they relate to HIV-related variables. For comparison groups, they are leveraging data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) and Human Connectome Project (HCP) datasets.

Jenkins is also the Northwestern PI for a project titled "A harmonized medial temporal lobe subregion segmentation protocol: An essential element for dementia research."

In line with her KL2 project, she has recently published two literature reviews related to neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurological disorders:

  1. Jenkins, L.M., Wang, L., Rosen, H. & Weintraub, S. (2022) A transdiagnostic review of neuroimaging studies of apathy and disinhibition in dementia. Brain, 145: 1886-1905.
  2. Patron, V.G., Rustomji, Y., Yip, C., & Jenkins, L.M. (2022). Psychiatric comorbidities in functional neurological disorders. Practical Neurology, March/April: 71-75.

Jenkins' full list of publications can be found here on the NIH website

Contact

710 N. Lakeshore Drive
Suite 1351
Chicago, IL 60611

For inquiries about this work, please contact lisanne.jenkins@northwestern.edu.

 
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Herbert Meltzer, MD

Meltzer's research focuses on cognitive and movement disorders in psychiatric patients (clinical and preclinical). He leads the Translational Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory.

Contact

303 E. Chicago Ave.
Ward 7-101
Chicago, IL 60611

For inquiries about research led by Herbert Meltzer, MD, please email mahdi.arshadi@northwestern.edu.

Visit the Translational Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory webpage.

 
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Sachin Patel, MD, PhD

The Patel Lab's goal is to elucidate the mechanisms by which stress affects brain structure and function, leading to susceptibility to mental illnesses, with a focus on endocannabinoid signaling systems. By understanding these mechanisms, they hope to uncover new molecular targets for development of novel therapeutics.

The research program led by Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, focuses on the role of endocannabinoids in stress-induced neuroadaptation. Psychosocial stress is a key trigger for the development and exacerbation of a variety of psychiatric disorders. By understanding the molecular, structural and physiological adaptations in endocannabinoid signaling that occur in response to stress, they hope to uncover novel targets for drug development. In addition, the lab uses a variety of techniques to understand the role of endocannabinoids in the brain's response to stress, with the hope that these investigations will provide insight into the pathophysiology of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

Lab Members: Keenan David Johnson, Liorimar Ramos-Medina, Niharika Loomba, Rita Baldi, Amanda Morgan, Saptarnab Naskar, Farhana Yasmin

Projects

Endocannabinoid modulation of stress responsivity

The lab aims to understand the role of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the regulation of behavioral, endocrine and synaptic adaptations induced by stress. They use a variety of approaches including electrophysiology, optogenetics, calcium imaging, behavioral pharmacology and genetics combined with mouse behavior to address these questions. Elucidating how 2-AG signaling adapts to stress could reveal novel endocannabinoid-based approaches to the treatment of stress-relates psychiatric disorders.

Experience-dependent plasticity in amygdala circuits

The lab is interested in how amygdala circuits and distinct cell types are functionally organized to orchestrate behavioral responses to stress and how these circuits adapt in response to stress exposure. They utilize optogenetics, chemogenetics, electrophysiology and models of Pavlovian fear learning and extinction to address these questions.

For details and images, visit the lab site.

Contact

The Patel Lab
320 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611

For inquiries about this research, please contact veronica.urcino@nm.org.

 
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James Reilly, PhD

Research in the Reilly Lab focuses on the evaluation of neurocognition in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders (psychosis, affective disorders) and acquired conditions, such as mild traumatic brain injury, with an aim to bridge the basic cognitive and clinical neurosciences in this research.

Work in the lab of James Reilly, PhD, focuses on understanding how cognitive control processes — those processes that help guide thought and behavior based on internally generated goals — are altered in individuals with or at risk for various forms of psychopathology and those with acquired conditions, and how these processes are altered by various treatments. They use neuropsychological and translational laboratory and fMRI approaches adopted from the cognitive neurosciences to study the functional neural networks involved in the control of attention, working memory and behavioral responding and how these are altered in a range of clinical populations. They use these same approaches to evaluate impact of novel interventions (pharmacological or behavioral) targeting cognition and functional neural systems among healthy and clinically affected individuals, with the aim towards identifying promising treatments for cognitive impairment to bring to clinical populations. Students in their lab have the opportunity to learn diagnostic and clinical assessment procedures, standard neuropsychological methods for evaluating cognitive functioning and laboratory and fMRI based acquisition and analysis of neurophysiologic data.

For inquiries about this research, please email james.reilly@northwestern.edu.

 
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Luis Rosas-Vidal, MD, PhD

Rosas-Vidal's group is interested in the interactions of stress, aversive learning and how these processes are modulated by the opioid system at both the behavioral and neural levels.

Luis Rosas-Vidal, MD, PhD, and his group study the neural dynamics of stress and aversive learning, how these processes are modulated by the opioid system and how they interact with the pursuit of rewards. More specifically, they use a myriad of techniques which include optogenetics, in vivo single cell calcium imaging, and pharmacological and genetic techniques in combination with multiple behavioral assays to explore the circuits involved in mediating stress and aversion; how these experiences are encoded at the neuronal level; how aversion is balanced with the pursuit of rewards; and how these processes are modulated by the opioid system. They believe their program will shine light on the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders and PTSD and their comorbidity with opioid use disorder.

 
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Stewart Shankman, PhD

The Northwestern Emotion and Risk (NEAR) Lab, led by Shankman, conducts multi-method research to examine (a) the relation between mood and anxiety disorders, (b) risk factors and familial transmission of emotional disorders and (c) novel treatments for individuals suffering from emotional disorders. The research program integrates clinical and epidemiological approaches with methods from neuroscience and mobile technologies.

Led by Stewart Shankman, PhD, the NEAR Lab's research focuses on the relation between depression and anxiety disorders and on novel treatments and risk factors for these difficult-to-treat emotional disorders. Depression and anxiety (aka "internalizing psychopathologies") are serious and prevalent public health problems with an economic burden of hundreds of billions of dollars that has been increasing in recent years. While moderately efficacious treatments have been developed for these conditions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapies, SSRIs), treatment response is very heterogeneous. The group’s research attempts to (a) improve the understanding of internalizing psychopathologies and their risk factors, (b) identify specific targets for intervention and prevention efforts for specific individuals and (c) develop more effective interventions and preventative strategies to help people suffering from these conditions. The lab came to Northwestern in 2019 and is currently conducting multiple NIH-funded projects utilizing a variety of methods (e.g., fMRI, electrophysiology, laboratory behavioral paradigms, treatment development). Recently, their two largest R01s have focused on psychomotor disturbance in adults with depression, as well as social processes and smartphone use in adolescence with depression.

Contact

680 N. Lake Shore Drive
Room 15-032
Chicago, IL 60611

For inquiries about the lab's research, please email stew.shankman@northwestern.edu.

For more information on what the NEAR Lab is currently working on and their list of staff, visit their website.

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