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Helen Pushkarskaya, PhD

Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry


Helen Pushkarskaya is an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine and an Instructor (Introduction into Data Analysis and Econometrics) in the Department of Economics, Yale University. She has completed training in mathematics and physics (undergraduate training, Moscow Physics and Technology Institute), economics (graduate training, Ohio State University), psychology (postdoctoral training, Ohio State University), imaging and cognitive neurobiology (T32 fellowship, Yale School of Medicine), and clinical sciences (NIH K01 Career Development Award, Yale School of Medicine). Her research in multi-disciplinary and relies on complementary cross-sectional and longitudinal data using behavioral and fMRI experiments, online and paper-based surveys, semi-structured interviews, and clinical assessments. She is one of the organizers of the series MAPs: Methods And Primers for Computational Psychiatry and Neuroeconomics.

Research focus: A prominent view on the marked divergence in developmental paths is that individuals vary in their susceptibility to both negative (risk-promoting) and positive (development-enhancing) environmental conditions; this has been termed the differential susceptibility model, or DSM). The DSM has some risk of promoting a deterministic view and a stance of ‘blaming and changing’ the susceptible person to induce better coping with adverse environments. To avoid this trap, proponents of the DSM have argued for a more dynamic approach, suggesting that developmental vulnerability may vary across developmental stages and socio-economics environments, and that interventions need to mitigate vulnerabilities by promoting resilience instead of changing personality traits. Helen Pushkarskaya's research advocates for this approach. It aims to answer the following inter-related questions:

  • What are the differences between normal and abnormal variations in basic psychological, social, behavioral, and neurobiological processes, such as information processing and decision formation?
  • What differentiates and triggers adaptive and maladaptive developmental trajectories?
  • How do adaptive variations in information processing and decision-making fit in a broader socio-economics dynamic?
  • What are the social and clinical modifiers of healthy maturational and illness trajectories, and what are the risk and resilience factors?

The ultimate goal of this line of research is to identify how adaptive variations can be supported and maladaptive variations can be mitigated in order to influence social policies and early clinical interventions.

Education & Training

  • PhD
    Ohio State University (2003)

Departments & Organizations