2020 was a year of loss and transition for the Yale Department of Psychiatry. Among the losses were two beloved senior faculty based at the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC): Ronald Duman, PhD, and Robert Malison, MD. Their leadership of the research enterprise in the Ribicoff Research Facilities at CMHC over more than two decades left an indelible mark on the department and on generations of trainees.
Their passing necessitates new leadership at the Ribicoff. The department is fortunate to have had two faculty leaders step into these roles in 2020 and continue the tradition of excellence nurtured for so long by Drs. Duman and Malison.
Marina Picciotto, PhD, Deputy Chair for Basic Science and Charles B.G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry, of Neuroscience, of Pharmacology and in the Child Study Center, has been named Director of the Ribicoff Labs and of the Division of Molecular Psychiatry.
Dr. Picciotto is among the most important contributors to the study of the molecular basis of nicotine addiction, acetylcholine signaling, and their contribution to both typical behaviors and behavioral dysregulation relevant to psychiatric illness. Her research has used mouse models to identify cholinergic contributions to reward, appetite, anxiety, depression, and learning and memory. She has collaborated widely to translate these findings to studies in human subjects and to the identification of new treatments for addiction and stress-related disorders.
Dr. Picciotto follows Dr. Duman, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, following his unexpected passing in February 2020. Dr. Duman directed the Division of Molecular Psychiatry for 19 years.
Christopher Pittenger, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Assistant Chair for Translational Research, and Director of the Yale OCD Research Clinic, has been named Director of the Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit (CNRU) and of the Neuroscience Research Training Program (NRTP).
Dr. Pittenger is a renowned translational neuroscientist. His research – which spans from molecular studies in animal models through behavioral, neuroimaging, and clinical studies in patients – probes the function of the basal ganglia network in the brain, and the dysfunction of this network in neuropsychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome.
Dr. Pittenger follows Dr. Malison, Professor of Psychiatry, who passed away unexpectedly in July 2020. Dr. Malison directed the NRTP for 23 years and the CNRU for 18 years.