Skip to Main Content

Godfrey Pearlson, MA, MBBS

Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience

Contact Information

Godfrey Pearlson, MA, MBBS



Dr. Pearlson's medical school training was in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England. Following this he completed a graduate degree in philosophy at Columbia University in New York and was successively a resident, postdoctoral fellow and faculty member at Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry under Dr. Paul McHugh, where he was ultimately Professor of Psychiatry and founding director of the division of Psychiatry Neuroimaging.

Dr. Pearlson is currently founding director of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, a 50-person organization consisting of 5 component labs. The Center specializes in the translational neuroscience of major mental illness, including dementias, mood disorders, substance abuse (cannabis, alcohol, cocaine), schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism spectrum and other conditions spanning childhood to old age.

The center includes two 3-Tesla research-dedicated MRI scanners and scans ~1200 individuals annually, all of whom are genotyped. It has a fully equipped psychophysiology lab, rTMS suite and a bio-bank for specimen storage. The Center also specializes in the importation of virtual reality (VR) paradigms into the functional MRI environment to yield ecologically valid "virtual environments" to study complex behaviors in the scanner such as automobile driving.

Dr. Pearlson's research uses neuroimaging as a tool to address a broader array of questions regarding the neurobiology of major mental disorders, primarily psychosis and substance abuse. Important "firsts" include showing that structural and functional brain changes associated with schizophrenia can also occur in psychotic bipolar disorder, the relationship of structural and functional abnormalities in the superior temporal gyrus with hallucinations in schizophrenia, using VR to explore complex behaviors in the MRI scanner (or example simulated driving) to assess disruptive effects of abused substances (cannabis, alcohol) and the first demonstration of human in-vivo cocaine-mediated dopamine release using PET ligands. As part of the B-SNIP consortium, his lab contributed towards a reconceptualization of psychotic illness based on biological, rather than clinical syndromic criteria.

Dr. Pearlson is an former NIMH MERIT awardee and is PI on multiple R01 grants from NIAAA, NIDA and NIMH. He has been awarded a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator award and a Michael visiting professorship from the Weizmann Institute. He has published >750 peer-reviewed research articles, with an H-index of 108. He is also co-founder of the annual BrainDance competition for high school and college students across New England. These competitive awards encourage students to gain knowledge about psychiatric diseases and to develop a more tolerant and realistic perspective towards people with severe psychiatric problems.

Dr. Pearlson was awarded the 2019 American Psychiatric Association Mentorship Award, the 2015 Stanley Dean Award for Schizophrenia Research from the American College of Psychiatrists and in 2015 was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars (distinguished alumni).
Current important intra-departmental collaborations are with Drs. Krystal (CTNA), Gelernter and Potenza.

Education & Training

  • MA
    Columbia University (1976)
  • MBBS
    Newcastle University (1974)


  • Community Garden
    Hartford, Connecticut, United States 2013
    BTS Jessie's community garden grows and supplies food to homeless and needy in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Annual BrainDance Competition
    United States 2006
    Encourages mental illness awareness through awards for essays and art projects from students in high school, throughout Connecticut on the theme of stigma associated with psychiatric disorders.

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Mentorship AwardAmerican Psychiatric Association2019
Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars (distinguished alumni)Johns Hopkins University2015
Stanley Dean Schizophrenia Research AwardAmerican College of Psychiatrists2015
Distinguished Life FellowAmerican Psychiatric Association2014
Nelson Butters AwardNational Academy of Neuropsychology2011
MERIT AwardNational Institute of Mental Health2008
Michael Visiting ProfessorshipWeizmann Inst. Israel2000
NARSAD Distinguished InvestigatorNARSAD (now Brain Behavior Foundation)2000
Ziskin-Somerfeld Research AwardSociety of Biological Psychiatry1996

Departments & Organizations