Christopher Pittenger MD, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry and in the Child Study Center and Assistant Professor of Psychology; Director, Yale OCD Research Clinic; Associate Director, Neuroscience Research Training Program

Departments & Organizations

Yale Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS): Neuroscience

Office of Student ResearchInterdepartmental Neuroscience ProgramChild Study Center: NIMH Research Training Program in Childhood-onset Neuropsychiatric Disorders; Albert J. Solnit Integrated Training | Psychiatry: Connecticut Mental Health Center; Molecular Psychiatry, Division of; Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Research Clinic; PittLab


Christopher Pittenger earned his MD and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University, where his graduate work was done with Nobel Prize recipient Eric Kandel. He returned to Yale University - where had done his undergraduate studies - for residency and research training in psychiatry in 2003. He joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2007 and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2013.

During his Ph.D. studies in basic neurobiology, he became fascinated by the brain's ability to go on autopilot -- to perform complex series of actions or thoughts, after sufficient rehearsal, with almost no conscious effort. Then, during his clinical training, he became more and more aware of how this process, when disrupted by disease, can lead to the maladaptive and disruptive automaticity seen in many neuropsychiatric disorders. His research, both with patients and in animal models, aims to elucidate the mechanisms of learned automatic behaviors and to better understand the consequences when they go awry, with the ultimate goal of developing new understandings and better treatments for a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions.

Dr. Pittenger's research and clinical work have been acknowledged by a number of prestigious awards, including grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, NARSAD, the Tourette Syndrome of America, and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and awards from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Society for Neuroscience, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American College of Psychiatrists. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International OCD Foundation and an active member of the Society for Neuroscience, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the American Neurological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and other groups.


  • M.S., Yale University , 1994
  • B.S., Yale University , 1994
  • M.Phil., Columbia University , 1998
  • Ph.D., Columbia University , 2002
  • Ph.D., Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences , 2002
  • M.D., Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons , 2003

Selected Publication

  • Xu, M., Kobets, A., Du, J.C., Lennington, J., Li, L., Banasr, M., Duman, R.S., Vaccarino, F.M., DiLeone, R.J., and Pittenger, C. (2015). Targeted ablation of cholinergic interneurons in the dorsolateral striatum produces behavioral manifestations of Tourette syndrome. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112:893-8.

Latest Honor and Recognition

  • Graduated cum laude with distinction, with simultaneous awarding of BS and MS degrees(1994) , Yale University