Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Medicine
  • Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine



Bita Moghaddam is Ruth Matarazzo Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU. She received a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas and postdoctoral training in pharmacology at Yale University. She joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University in 1990 where she quickly rose to the rank of full professor. In 2003 she moved to the University of Pittsburgh as professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry. She joined OHSU in 2017. Her research focuses on understanding the neuronal basis of complex behaviors that are critical to mental health, and is distinguished by the substantial impact on the field (H-index 70, overall citations ~ 16,000).

Research Overview

Brain illnesses that affect cognition and emotion are the most prevalent and the most devastating of human disorders. Whether it is a chronic disease such as schizophrenia or transient bouts of anxiety and panic attacks, they influence every aspect of an individual’s life and produce enduring personal anguish and hardship to family. New treatments for these conditions are contingent upon research breakthroughs that explain the neuronal processes that support cognition and emotion. By increasing our basic understanding of how these processes work, we can identify genetic or environmental causes that disrupt them. It is then that we can find cures or prevention strategies for these disorders.

We use a systems neuroscience approach to study "dynamic" brain mechanisms that maintain cognitive and emotional functions in key brain regions that are implicated in illnesses such as schizophrenia, ADHD, anxiety, and addictive disorders. Our primary focus is on prefrontal cortex subregions and dopamine neurons in the midbrain. New directions include characterization of these neuronal systems during adolescence. The onset of symptoms for most psychiatric disorders is during adolescence; therefore, understanding what goes awry in this developmental period is critical for defining the neuronal basis of the disease process and designing strategies that prevent the onset of symptoms.

 Recent Papers 

Wood, J., Simon, N.W., Koerner, S., Kass, R.E., Moghaddam, B. (2017). Networks of VTA Neurons Encode Real-Time Information about Uncertain Numbers of Actions Executed to Earn a Reward. Frontiers in Neuroscience. in press 

Del Arco, A., Park, J., Wood, J., Kim, Y., Moghaddam, B. (2017). Adaptive encoding of outcome prediction by prefrontal cortex ensembles supports behavioral flexibility. Journal of Neuroscience, 0450-17. in press 

Bueno-Junior, L.S., Simon, N.W., Wegener, M.A., Moghaddam, B. (2017). Repeated Nicotine Strengthens Gamma Oscillations in the Prefrontal Cortex and Improves Visual Attention  Neuropsychopharmacology 42 (8), 1590-1598.

Park, J., Moghaddam, B. (2017). Impact of anxiety on prefrontal cortex encoding of cognitive flexibility. Neuroscience 345, 193-202  

Lohani, S., Martig, A., Underhill, S., DeFrancesco, A., Roberts, M., Rinaman, L. Burst Activation Of Dopamine Neurons Produces Prolonged Post-Burst Availability Of Actively Released Dopamine , bioRxiv, 125062

Park, J., Wood, J., Bondi, C., Del Arco, A., and Moghaddam, B. (2016) Anxiety evokes hypofrontality and disrupts rule-relevant encoding by dorsomedial prefrontal cortex neurons. Journal of Neuroscience, 36(11): 3322-3335.

Lohani, S., Poplawsky, A.J., Kim, S.G., and Moghaddam, B. (2017) Unexpected global impact of VTA dopamine neuron activati on as measured by opto-fMRI. Molecular Psychiatry, doi:10.1038/mp.2016.102.

(complete list

Selected Media Coverage

Huffington Post, 22 March, 2016, “Anxiety Could Be The Reason You Made A Bad Decision.”

Psychology Today, 17 March, 2016, “How Does Anxiety Short Circuit the Decision-Making Process?”  

Forbes, 29 October, 2012, “New Study Shows that Omega-3 Supplements Can Boost Memory in Young Adults.”

Recent podcasts

March 2016, “Women at the Podium: ACNP Strives to Reach Speaker Gender Equality at the Annual Meeting.”

SfN's first-ever podcast on "The Perils of Publishing"  

Areas of interest

  • systems neuroscience approaches to understanding cognitive-affective interface
  • novel behavioral and computational models of mood and cognitive disorders
  • prefrontal cortex and action selection



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