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Irina Esterlis, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychiatry; Director, Molecular Imaging Program, NCPTSD, VA; Director, Mood, Anxiety, and Cognitive Sciences Division

Contact Information

Irina Esterlis, PhD

Mailing Address

  • Psychiatry

    Yale University, 2 Church St S

    New Haven, CT 06519

    United States

Research Summary

Around 20% of the US population suffers from a mood disorder. Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, however we still don’t know its exact cause and antidepressants only work in approximately half the population. Bipolar disorder is a severe mood disorder that is associated with a high risk of suicide: between 20-50% attempt suicide. Current treatments for BD are only partially effective. We are using PET, fMRI, EEG, and MRS to further our understanding of the receptors and neural mechanisms underlying these disorders so that we can develop more effective treatments and reduce the suffering.

Extensive Research Description

Examination of the beta2-nAChR system in bipolar depression and relevance to the persistent tobacco smoking.

Imaging glutamatergic system in depression via PET and MRS to determine role of glutamate and mGluR5 in depression and associated cognitive difficulties.

Imaging ACh changes in the brain in living humans.


Research Interests

Psychiatry; Radiology; Tobacco; Mood Disorders; Molecular Imaging; Chemicals and Drugs

Selected Publications

Clinical Trials

ConditionsStudy Title
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchTeen Brain and Behavior Study
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchEligibility for Participation in Neuroimaging Studies
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchNeurofeedback of Amygdala Activity for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchExamination of Glutamate and mGluR5 in Psychiatric Disorders
Mental Health & Behavioral Research; Tobacco AddictionImaging Tobacco Smoking Withdrawal using [11C]PHNO
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchImaging Microglial Activation in PTSD wITH PET
Diseases of the Nervous System; Genetics - Adult; Genetics - Pediatric; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchBrain Emotion Circuitry-Targeted Self-Monitoring and Regulation Therapy (BE-SMART)
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchImaging mGluR5 and synaptic density in psychiatric disorders
Addictive Behaviors; Alcohol Addiction; Mental Health & Behavioral Research; Tobacco AddictionDetermining Eligibility for Neuroimaging Research Studies
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchEffect of Sleep Deprivation on Brain Imaging and Function
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchImaging SV2A in mood disorders
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchBiomarkers of Clinical Subtype and Treatment Response in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Mental Health & Behavioral Research; Tobacco AddictionAcetylcholine, Tobacco Smoking, Genes and Nicotinic Receptors (nic_physo)