Skip to content

Principal Investigator

Photo of Francis McMahon

Francis McMahon, M.D.

Human Genetics Branch


Dr. McMahon graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982, where he majored in Biology. After a year in Europe as a Rotary Scholar, he enrolled in The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he received his M.D. in 1987. He stayed on at Hopkins to complete a medical internship, a residency in adult psychiatry and a post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatric genetics before joining the faculty in 1993. In 1998, he became Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, where he also served as medical director of the Electroconvulsive Therapy clinic. In 2002, he came to the National Institute of Mental Health to establish a new Genetics Unit within the Intramural Research Program. Dr. McMahon is the recipient of several honors and awards. Most recently he was named the 30th Mallinckrodt Scholar by the Edward F. Mallinckrodt Foundation. He serves as a scientific advisor for the National Tourette Syndrome Association, the University of Antwerp, the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, and the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review, as well as numerous scientific journals.

Research Interests

Our mission is to identify the genes that contribute to the risk for mood and anxiety disorders so that better methods of diagnosis and treatment can be developed.

Mood and anxiety disorders reflect a complex genetic architecture ranging from common alleles conferring modest risk for what may prove to be a broad range of psychopathology, to alleles that help shape the clinical picture of disease and response to treatment. Rarer alleles may also exist that confer larger risk in a fraction of individuals and families. If even a few of these alleles can be firmly identified, new windows into the pathobiology of common psychiatric disorders may be opened, enabling the development of new methods of diagnosis and treatment. 

Selected Publications

Amish revisited: next-generation sequencing studies of psychiatric disorders among the Plain people. Hou L, Faraci G, Chen DT, Kassem L, Schulze TG, Shugart YY, McMahon FJ. Trends Genet. 2013 Feb 16. pii: S0168-9525(13)00019-X. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2013.01.007. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 23422049.

Pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine in neuropsychiatry. McMahon FJ, Insel TR. Neuron. 2012 Jun 7;74(5):773-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.05.004. PMID: 22681682.

Common variants at 12q14 and 12q24 are associated with hippocampal volume. Bis JC, DeCarli C, Smith AV, van der Lijn F, Crivello F, Fornage M, Debette S, Shulman JM, Schmidt H, Srikanth V, Schuur M, Yu L, Choi SH, Sigurdsson S, Verhaaren BF, DeStefano AL, Lambert JC, Jack CR Jr, Struchalin M, Stankovich J, Ibrahim-Verbaas CA, Fleischman D, Zijdenbos A, den Heijer T, Mazoyer B, Coker LH, Enzinger C, Danoy P, Amin N, Arfanakis K, van Buchem MA, de Bruijn RF, Beiser A, Dufouil C, Huang J, Cavalieri M, Thomson R, Niessen WJ, Chibnik LB, Gislason GK, Hofman A, Pikula A, Amouyel P, Free. Nat Genet. 2012 Apr 15;44(5):545-51. doi: 10.1038/ng.2237. PMID: 22504421.

Genome-wide association study meta-analysis of European and Asian-ancestry samples identifies three novel loci associated with bipolar disorder. Chen DT, Jiang X, Akula N, Shugart YY, Wendland JR, Steele CJ, Kassem L, Park JH, Chatterjee N, Jamain S, Cheng A, Leboyer M, Muglia P, Schulze TG, Cichon S, Nöthen MM, Rietschel M; BiGS, McMahon FJ, Kelsoe JR, Greenwood TA, Nievergelt CM, McKinney R, Shilling PD, Schork NJ, Smith EN, Bloss CS, Nurnberger JI Jr, Edenberg HJ, Foroud T, Koller DL, Gershon ES, Liu C, Badner JA, Scheftner WA, Lawson WB, Nwulia EA, Hipolito M, Coryell W, Rice J, Byerley W, McMahon FJ, Chen DT, Berrettini WH, Potash JB, Zandi PP. Mol Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;18(2):195-205. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.157. Epub 2011 Dec 20. PMID: 22182935.

A non-synonymous polymorphism in galactose mutarotase (GALM) is associated with serotonin transporter binding potential in the human thalamus: results of a genome-wide association study. Liu X, Cannon DM, Akula N, Moya PR, Knudsen GM, Arentzen TE, Steele J, Laje G, Drevets WC, McMahon FJ. Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Jun;16(6):584-5. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.1. Epub 2011 Feb 22. PMID: 21339755.

Porter Bldg, Room 1A201, MSC 3719

Phone: +1 301 451 4453
Fax: +1 304 402 9081