Skip to Main Content

Division of Molecular Psychiatry

Marina Picciotto, PhD
Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center, of Neuroscience and of Pharmacology
Director, Division of Molecular Psychiatry
Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities

The Division of Molecular Psychiatry sponsors basic neurobiological research aimed at an improved understanding of the causes and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. One distinguishing feature of the Division's research is its interdisciplinary nature: the goal is to build causal bridges among the molecular, cellular, neural systems, and behavioral levels of analysis. A second distinguishing feature is the integration of the basic research with clinical investigations.

Interested students, fellows or faculty are welcome to contact Marina Picciotto, PhD for additional information.

Faculty

  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry

    Nii Addy is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. He received his B.S. in Biology from Duke University and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University. Dr. Addy directs a federally funded research program investigating cholinergic, dopaminergic and L-type calcium channel mechanisms mediating substance use and mood disorders. Dr. Addy’s team also studies the ability of tobacco product flavor additives to alter nicotine use behavior and addiction. He serves on the journal editorial board of Neuropsychopharmacology, Biological PsychiatryNicotine & Tobacco Research, and Neuropharmacology, and is a grant reviewer for the Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior (NMB) Study Section of the National Institutes of Health's Center for Scientific Review (CSR). Dr. Addy currently serves as the inaugural Director of Scientist Diversity and Inclusion at the Yale School of Medicine, as the Director of the faculty mentoring program for the Yale Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion (MORE), and as Co-chair of the Career Development Subcommittee of the Anti-Racism Task Force in the Yale Department of Psychiatry. He also contributes to graduate student and postdoctoral training and to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives through his efforts on campus and in scientific societies.

    In addition to his campus work, Dr. Addy hosts the Addy Hour podcast, discussing topics at the intersection of neuroscience, mental health, faith, culture and social justice. Episodes include dynamic conversations based on the lived experience and professional expertise of his guests - which include community leaders, clinicians and mental health experts, scientists, professional athletes and entertainers, faith leaders, and mental health advocates. As the creator and host of town hall community events, Dr. Addy has also built unique partnerships to encourage and equip audiences to embrace the use of holistic, integrated tools to address mental health challenges. He has collaborated with Lecrae (Grammy Award-winning artist and NY Times Best Seller), Doug Middleton (Jacksonville Jaguars/ Dream the Impossible Initiative), Allan Houston (former NBA All-Star, NY Knicks/ FISLL Project), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Veritas Forum, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), the Yale University Chaplain's Office, Yale Well, the Salvation Army, Every Nation Church NYC, the American Bible Society and others. His research and community work have been featured by National Public Radio (NPR), Newsday, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), The Source Magazine, Chuck Norris, BoldTV, Legitimate Matters, and Relevant Magazine. He has presented scientific lectures at universities throughout the United States and Europe, and he serves on the Board of Trustees for The Carver Project, aimed at empowering and connecting individuals across university, church and society.

  • Professor of Psychiatry

    Kristen Brennand, PhD is a Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics at the Yale School of Medicine, having recently moved her laboratory from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY.  Her research integrates stem cell-based approaches with CRISPR-mediated genomic engineering strategies, in order to study the impact of patient-specific variants across and between the cell types of the brain. The goal of her research is to uncover the convergence and synergy arising from the complex interplay of the many risk variants linked to brain disease. Dr. Brennand’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Brain Research Foundation, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

    Dr. Che joined the faculty of Yale Department of Psychiatry in 2021, after completing her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Natalia De Marco García at Weill Cornell Medical College and Dr. Gord Fishell at NYU. She earned a Ph.D. in Physiology and Neurobiology in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph LoTurco at the University of Connecticut in 2014. She received a B.S. triple-majoring in Biology, Physics and Physical Chemistry at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state in 2009.

  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry

    Dr. Philip Robert Corlett trained in Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychiatry with Professors Trevor Robbins and Paul Fletcher at the University of Cambridge. He won a Wellcome Trust Prize Studentship and completed his PhD on the brain bases of delusion formation in the Brain Mapping Unit, Department of Psychiatry. After a short postdoc, he was awarded the University of Cambridge Parke- Davis Exchange Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences which brought him to the Yale University Department of Psychiatry to explore the maintenance of delusions with Professors Jane Taylor and John Krystal. He was named a Rising Star and Future Opinion Leader by Pharmaceutical Marketing Magazine and joined the Yale faculty in 2011 where he will continue to explore the cognitive and biological mechanisms of delusional beliefs as well as predictive learning, habit formation and addiction.

  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience

    Dr. George Dragoi is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. He holds M.D. degree from the Gr. T. Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Iasi, Romania and Ph.D. degree in Behavioral and Neural Science from Rutgers University where he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Gyorgy Buzsaki. He completed his postdoctoral studies at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Dr. Susumu Tonegawa. Dr. Dragoi studies the neurophysiological basis of the organization of hippocampal neurons into cellular assemblies and their dynamic grouping during novel spatial exploration and in response to long-term synaptic plasticity. Recently, he revealed the existence of preconfigured cellular assemblies that pre-play in time the spatial sequences occurring during a future novel spatial experience in naive animals. Dr. Dragoi’ current research focuses on the role of neuronal activity and prior experience in cellular assembly organization and animal learning with implications for our better understanding of neuropsychiatric diseases.

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

    Dr. Matt Girgenti is a molecular neuroscientist by training with a strong history of genomic-centric research focused on the neurobiology of stress-related disorders. As a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, he received extensive research training in molecular and cell biology, in projects examining the epigenetic basis of schizophrenia (SCZ) using neural stem cells to demonstrate a role for the SCZ-risk gene ZNF804a as a gene transcription regulator. His research at Yale has focused on the functional genomics of neuropsychiatric disorders, specifically PTSD, major depression, and suicide using frozen postmortem brain tissue. His lab is identifying convergent biological pathways in PTSD and  depression combining single-cell molecular levels (epigenomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic) across discrete brain regions. This large multi-omics dataset is being used to identify novel neuronal and non-neuronal cell types and discovery of shared neural biomarkers harboring clinical significance in PTSD and MDD. 

    Dr. Girgenti has been recognized with a number of awards, including a VA VISN1 Career Development Award, a NARSAD/BBRF Young Investigator Award, and an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Young Investigator Award. His research interests broadly center on integration of high-throughput biological data, particularly gene expression and  epigenetics in large rodent and human-based studies.  His research interests are largely at the intersection of genomics, bioinformatics, and animal behavior leveraging large datasets to better understand how individual cell types and genomic signatures associate with brain dysregulation in disease.  Dr. Girgenti is  an expert in the field of traumatic stress, from genetics to physiology and imaging in human subjects to rodent models examining the molecular biology of prefrontal cortical function. Dr. Girgenti is also a Research Scientist at the VA National Center for PTSD and a scientific advisor for the Traumatic Stress Brain Research Group, the board that oversees the NCPTSD VA Brain Bank where he co-directs the Genomics and Epigenetics Working Groups. He is also a member of the International Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) PTSD Group and the PGC Systems Biology Working Group.

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience

    Monika Jadi obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroengineering at the University of Southern California and did her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. At Yale, she is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. 

    Dr. Jadi’s research involves discovering computational principles that are critical for flexible information processing in the brain, using cross-disciplinary approaches from applied physics and computer science.  Her doctoral research resulted in the first characterization of computational flexibility mediated by location-specificity of synaptic inhibition in active dendrites of neurons, a ubiquitous anatomical signature in cortical circuits. She has studied models of cortical networks during her postdoctoral work, and proposed a novel mechanism of cortical oscillations that is controlled by the direct and indirect stimulation of inhibitory neurons. Subsequently, she has explored mechanisms of flexible modulation of cortical dynamics that are mediated by different inhibitory neuronal classes in the cortex. Complementing her computational modelling work, she has used novel data analysis methods to explore the temporal dynamics of population coding in the visual cortex. The current focus of her lab is using computational modeling as well as data modeling tools such as machine learning to study computations, information flow, temporal dynamics of population codes and role of neuromodulation in canonical columnar circuits of the cortex. Dr. Jadi is a recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence award during her postdoctoral and early faculty years.

    The Jadi Lab

  • Research Scientist in the Department of Psychiatry

    Dr. Kaffman is a physician scientist who is working as a psychiatrist at the Newington VA treating large number of veterans mainly with PTSD. He also has a basic neuroscience lab at Yale studying the effects of early life stress on neurodevelopment and complex behavior in the mouse. His lab is focusing on the role that microglia, which are specialized brain immune cells, play in altering connectivity and behavior in mice exposed to different doses of postnatal stress. The goal of this translational work is to clarify how early adversity alters neurodevelopment of circuits that regulate psychiatrically relevant behaviors and to use this information for the development of novel diagnostic and treatment modalities. Dr. Kaffman did his M.D, Ph.D. training at UCSF. He did his Ph.D. with Dr. Erin O’Shea’s studying how yeast cells (i.e. Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are able to rapidly phosphorylate and eject the transcriptional regulator Pho4 from the nucleus under environmental conditions in which it was no longer necessary. He  then completed a residency in psychiatry and received a career award providing him with additional training in neurodevelopment, genomic/proteomic work, and neuroimmunology. Dr. Kaffman has been the PI on several NIH funded grants that combine molecular/cellular, genomic, pharmacological, and behavioral traditional neuroscience approaches with human imaging techniques such resting state fMRI and high resolution dMRI.

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry; Researcher, VA-Yale Clinical Neurosciences PTSD Research Program

    Dr. Kaye is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, using a combination of circuit and computational approaches to understand adaptations to the danger in the environment and how those adaptations underlie PTSD. He graduated from the University of California M.D., Ph.D. program, where he used two-photon imaging and computational modeling to understand the organization of visual motion processing. Then, he joined the psychiatry residency at Yale, where he worked in Alex Kwan's lab on using calcium and neurotransmitter imaging to understand how arousal states change after stress, and also developed computational models of PTSD.

    The lab will focus on understanding how neuromodulatory circuits reprogram one another to create adaptive responses to traumatic experiences. Underlying this idea is the central problem of developing a mechanistic and functional understanding of stress and anxiety. The lab uses microendoscope and two-photon imaging of calcium and neurotransmitter sensors, large-scale electrophysiology (Neuropixels), computational analysis of behavior (DeepLabCut), and single cell transcriptomics to understand this problem. 

  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience

    Dr. Kwan received a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Physics from Simon Fraser University and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University. At Cornell, he developed nonlinear optical microscopes in the laboratory of Watt Webb. In 2009, he went to the University of California, Berkeley to work in the laboratory of Yang Dan, where he studied cortical microcircuits. He joined the faculty at Yale School of Medicine in 2013.

    Research in the Kwan lab focuses on the mouse medial frontal cortex. We are interested in how dendritic plasticity may underlie the actions of psychiatric drugs and how cortical circuits enable flexible decision-making. Our expertise lies in developing and applying optical methods to record and control neural activity in behaving mice.

  • Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry

    Angus Nairn did his undergraduate training in biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and his PhD in muscle biochemistry in the laboratory of Professor Sam Perry at Birmingham University, England. He then carried out postdoctoral research in molecular neuroscience with Professor Paul Greengard at Yale, and moved with Professor Greengard to Rockefeller University in 1983 as a faculty member. He moved back to Yale University in 2001, where he is currently the Charles B.G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry. He also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Pharmacology and is co-director of the Yale/National Institute of Drug Abuse Neuroproteomics Center at the Yale School of Medicine.

  • Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center, of Neuroscience and of Pharmacology; Interim Director Division of Molecular Psychiatry, Psychiatry; Deputy Chair for Basic Science Research, Dept. of Psychiatry; Deputy Director, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience; Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Training Program, Yale Department of Psychiatry

    Dr. Picciotto joined the Yale faculty in 1995, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Jean-Pierre Changeux in the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology at The Rockefeller University in New York City in 1992, where she worked in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience under Paul Greengard. She received a B.S. degree in biological sciences from Stanford University, Stanford, California, in 1985.

    Dr. Picciotto is currently Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Neuroscience. She served on the Scientific Council of the National Institute on Drug Abuse from 2010-2014, was Treasurer of the Society for Neuroscience from 2014-2015, and President of the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco from 2018-2019. She has been a Handling Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience, the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the Journal of Neurochemistry and Neuroscience Letters. She is currently Chair of the MNPS NIH Study Section and is a past member of the Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior. In 2000 she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering by President Clinton and in 2007, she was honored with the Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism by the Society for Neuroscience. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2012 and as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014, where she was Chair of the Neuroscience Section from 2018-2019. In 2019, Dr. Picciotto was awarded the Bernice Grafstein Mentorship award from the Society for Neuroscience, the Marion Spencer Fay Award from Drexel University and the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for Innovative Research.

  • Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry; Assistant Chair for Translational Research, Psychiatry; Director, Yale OCD Research Clinic; Director, Neuroscience Research Training Program, Yale Department of Psychiatry

    Chris 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, his undergraduate alma mater, for residency and research training in psychiatry in 2003. He joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2007 and is now a tenured Associate Professor and Assistant Chair for Translational Research in the Department of Psychiatry .

    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 recognized 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 Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke, NARSAD, the Tourette Syndrome of America, the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and other organizations.  He has won a number of honorific awards, including 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 Chair of both their Grant Review Committee and their Annual Research Symposium Planning Committee.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Neurological Association. 

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience

    Dr. Hyojung Seo received her bachelor and master's degree in Psychology from Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea. She then completed her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience with her thesis research on the neurophysiology of the oculomotor system. Dr. Seo continued her research in decision neuroscience as a post-doctoral fellow and associate research scientist at Yale University and joined the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University as an assistant professor in 2016.