The researchers within the Department of Psychiatry are actively involved and focused on various mental health conditions and cross-disorder mechanisms. These include ADHD/attention disorders, autism spectrum disorders, brain development in healthy and at-risk youth, post-traumatic stress disorder and effects of trauma, depression, psychoneuroimmunology (interactions between the immune and central nervous systems), alcohol abuse, drug abuse, addiction, psychological aspects of pain management in adult veterans and in children, and implementation science (that is, how to create effective treatments). We believe that excellence in research will lead to novel interventions and treatments to improve mental health and well-being.
Center for Mental Health Innovation
Directed by Bonnie Nagel, Ph.D.
The Center for Mental Health Innovation (CMHI) aims to advance scientific discovery about origins of and determinants of mental illness, including ADHD, depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide. Through strategic integration of existing talent, as well as recruitment of exceptional new scientists and key partnerships, this Center will foster scientific breakthroughs that translate into innovative clinical practice to reduce the burden of mental illness. The Center will bring discoveries to the clinic to improve mental health care, precision, and access.
CMHI Research Programs
The Developmental Brain Imaging Lab has been studying brain development in healthy and at-risk youth for over a decade. Studying this crucial time in development is necessary to enhance our understanding of changes in the developing brain and ways to prevent and treat such things as substance abuse and mood disorders that emerge during adolescence.
The INSPIRE Lab is an interdisciplinary group focused on advancing understanding of how the early environment, starting in the prenatal period, influences brain development and risk for psychiatric disorders. We use structural and functional MRI to characterize developing brain systems. We conduct preventive intervention research with the aim of ameliorating effects of exposure to early life stress and supporting healthy brain development. The overarching goal of this work is to prevent psychiatric disorders and improve cognitive and emotional health across the lifespan.
InterGenerational Neuroimaging (IGN) Lab - Alexander Dufford, Ph.D.
The InterGenerational Neuroimaging (IGN) Lab focuses it research on an intergenerational approach to understand links between brain development and mental health during the perinatal period for two generations: infant and parent. The lab uses neuroimaging (primarily magnetic resonance imaging) to understand the perinatal period as both a sensitive window and window of opportunity for brain development. The IGN Lab also is interested in harnessing Big Data and machine learning methods to increase precision in studies of early markers of psychopathology for both mechanistic inference and clinical prediction.
The overarching research goal of the Prenatal Environment And Child Health (PEACH) Laboratory is to understand the influence of early environmental factors such as maternal nutrition, stress, and mental health during gestation on offspring neurobehavioral regulation. The primary focus is the identification of early environmental risk and protective factors for neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression in order to inform the design of prevention strategies and early interventions. One specific focus is the impact of exposure to maternal obesity and poor nutrition during the perinatal period on the behavior, and physiology of the developing offspring.
The Science of Nutrition Affect and Cognition in Kids Lab is focused on complementary and integrative treatments for mental health issues including ADHD, irritability, anxiety, and depression, in children and adolescents. Mindfulness and micronutrients (vitamins + minerals) are two of the interventions studied. Beyond behavioral changes, the lab is interested in understanding for whom and why interventions work. To gain this knowledge, we examine participants’ biological samples in order to identify biomarkers of treatment response to begin understanding the biological signature of the micronutrients.
We are interested in understanding the development of cognitive and affective brain processes and how these processes are affected by stressful events.
Suicide Prevention in Youth with Mood Disorders – Rebekah Huber, Ph.D.
Dr. Huber’s lab is focused on discovery of cognitive and biological risk factors for suicide in youth with mood disorders. The mission of the lab is to understand the biological basis of suicide risk and to identify real world warning signs that can be targeted through interventions. Ultimately, the lab aims to develop novel treatments and prevention strategies to reduce suicide and improve the quality of life for those living with mood disorders. The lab utilizes digital mobile technologies (e.g., actigraphy and ecological momentary assessment) to investigate sleep, cognition and suicidal thoughts in real time combined with neuroimaging to examine associated brain functional connectivity.
Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care
Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC) 's mission is to conduct research that empowers Veterans to improve their health by enhancing active participation of Veterans and their supports in healthcare. CIVIC investigators will, in particular, focus on patients who have psychological challenges or other vulnerabilities that impact self-management and recovery.'s mission is to conduct research that empowers Veterans to improve their health by enhancing active participation of Veterans and their supports in healthcare. CIVIC investigators will, in particular, focus on patients who have psychological challenges or other vulnerabilities that impact self-management and recovery.
CIVIC Core Investigators
Steven Dobscha, M.D. - CIVIC Director
Dr. Steven Dobscha’s research focuses on topics that are highly relevant to the care of Veterans including chronic pain, prescription opiate use, suicide prevention, and patient-centered care. Dr. Dobscha and his team are currently developing and evaluating a program to train primary care clinicians to deliver means safety messaging to Veterans at risk for suicide seen in primary care settings.
Benjamin Morasco, Ph.D. is a staff psychologist at the VA Portland Health Care System and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University. His primary research focus is on improving the safety and effectiveness of treatment for chronic pain. Dr. Morasco’s currently funded projects are examining chronic pain treatment outcomes for patients prescribed chronic opioid therapy, evaluating barriers and facilitators for different strategies to reduce prescription opioid abuse, and conducting a randomized trial of an intervention designed to improve the safety of opioid therapy for patients with chronic pain.
Jason I. Chen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Assistant Program Director for the Clinical Psychology PhD Program at OHSU and a VA HSR&D Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC) Core Investigator. He is currently funded on a 5-year, VA HSR&D Career Development Award titled, “Enhancing Social Connectedness Among Veterans at High Risk for Suicide through Community Engagement,” (CDA 18-185; IK2HX002787). Dr. Chen’s research lab, the Connecting Communities for Suicide Prevention Lab (CCSP), studies suicide prevention for high-risk populations with a focus on military veterans, community-based approaches, and help-seeking processes. Clinically, Dr. Chen provides supervision on suicide-specific interventions and adapting evidence-based psychotherapies to acute care and non-traditional settings.
Travis Lovejoy, Ph.D., MPH is a clinical psychologist with specialized training in quantitative methodologies, health psychology, behavioral medicine, and substance use disorders. Dr. Lovejoy’s research interests include the scientific development, testing, and implementation of theory-based clinical and health services interventions that improve individual and population health. Dr. Lovejoy’s research approaches include large retrospective administrative database studies, prospective cohort studies, clinical and health services efficacy and effectiveness trials, and mixed methods approaches to study the implementation of evidence-based practices.
Maya O'Neil, PhD is a Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC) Core Investigator and neuropsychologist at the VA Portland Health Care System, and Assistant Professor at OHSU in the Departments of Psychiatry and Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology. Her current research focuses on assessing and treating cognitive problems in Veterans with PTSD, which was recently funded by the VA through a Career Development Award. She is the Principal Investigator of two OHSU projects funded by AHRQ and the National Center for PTSD examining randomized controlled trial data on PTSD interventions.
Dr. Teo's primary research focus is on the role of social relationships in influencing mental health outcomes. He studies how social support and social ties--with peers, family, and others--can buffer against mental illness, and conversely how social isolation may be both a risk factor and negative outcome of mental illness. He has methodological expertise in survey development and secondary data analyses of population-based datasets. Here is a brief presentation from Dr. Alan Teo at the 2022 Psychiatry Research Retreat.
Multiple factors can contribute to cognitive decline (e.g., traumatic brain injuries, addictions, mild cognitive impairment). This program aims to address the growing need for cognitive rehabilitation interventions and looks to understand the efficacy of treatments, particularly Compensatory Cognitive Training (CCT), on various conditions which have been associated with cognitive decline.
Glycobiology and Schizophrenia Research Lab - Robert Mealer, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Mealer focuses on schizophrenia risk genes involved in glycosylation, the process of adding carbohydrates to proteins and lipids to regulate their function. By combining techniques of neuroscience and biochemistry, he hopes to develop new tools to diagnosis and treat individuals affected by conditions including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center (MARC) at OHSU and the Portland Health Care System (VAPHCS) is a new NIDA center approaching drug research at all these levels, in a truly translational context. This means we study meth addiction "from bench to bedside" — all the way from the genetics or pharmacology lab to the patient who comes in for treatment.
OHSU Department of Psychiatry Measurement-based Care Project - Whitney Black, M.D.
The mission of the OHSU Department of Psychiatry Measurement-based Care Project is to enhance the delivery of evidence-based practices in mental health care to improve access and outcomes.
Measurement-based care (MBC), or the systematic use of patient-reported data to monitor treatment progress and inform care decisions, has been shown to improve psychiatric treatment outcomes.The aims of the OHSU Measurement-based Care Project include: the identification of factors contributing to the measurement-based care research-to-practice gap; the utilization of implementation science & technology to increase uptake of MBC; and the improvement of patient outcomes through the use of patient generated data. OHSU clinicians and researchers participating in the project are responsible for collecting, organizing, and disseminating findings to key stakeholders both locally and nationally.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of interactions between the immune and central nervous systems, and particularly how these interactions contribute to psychiatric function and health. Our program is a “real time,” translational research program that integrates human, animal, and in vitro experiments to examine how neuroimmune factors contribute to the neuropsychiatric effects of medical, psychiatric, and substance use disorders. Here is a brief presentation from Dr. Jennifer Loftis at the 2022 Psychiatry Research Retreat.
Psychopharmacology Lab - Aaron Janowsky, Ph.D.
The Psychopharmacology Lab studies the effects of drugs that are involved in substance use disorders. We are currently focused on newly designed abused drugs and contaminants of illicit drugs, and how they interact with cloned human proteins to affect behavior. These studies also allow us to examine basic physiological mechanisms involved in substance use disorders as well as other neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s Disease.
The DAETA team is a multidisciplinary group of clinicians, researchers, managers, peers, and individuals with lived experience. The DAETA team is funded by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to monitor and evaluate community mental health programs across the state, including Intensive In-Home Behavioral Health Treatment (IIBHT), Wraparound, Mobile Crisis Intervention Services (MCIS) and Stabilization Services (SS). Using a collaborative, data-driven approach, the team helps to connect the experiences of those who provide mental health services and the youth and families who utilize them. Dr. Marshall is also an advisor to a number of medical students, residents, and fellows on research projects.
Social Neuroscience and Psychotherapy (SNAP) Lab - Chris Stauffer, M.D.
The Social Neuroscience and Psychotherapy (SNAP) lab aims to maximize the benefits of the therapeutic alliance and psychotherapy through the adjunct use of social psychopharmalogy, such as oxytocin, MDMA, and psilocybin.
Suicide Prevention Research Impact NeTwork (SPRINT) - Coordinating Center, VHA HSRD
The mission of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Suicide Prevention Research Impact NeTwork (SPRINT) is to accelerate VA health services suicide prevention (SP) research that will improve care and reduce suicide behaviors among Veterans. With a focus on population health, over 5 years, SPRINT will serve as a collaborative network of VHA and non-VHA researchers that is dedicated to conducting high-quality, high-priority, and high impact health services research. OHSU investigators located at VA Portland Health Care System are leading SPRINT’s Communications/Organization Hub which is coordinating overall SPRINT activities and responsible for collecting, organizing and helping to disseminate key information to SPRINT members and other stakeholders.