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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Photo of Kathleen Merikangas

Kathleen R Merikangas, Ph.D.

NIH Distinguished Investigator

Research Topics

The major areas of Dr. Merikangas' research are: (1) studies of the patterns and components of familial aggregation of mental disorders and familial mechanisms for comorbidity of mental and medical disorders; (2) identification of early signs and risk factors for psychiatric disorders among high and low risk youth using prospective longitudinal high risk studies; and (3) large scale population based studies of mental disorders including high risk designs and prospective longitudinal research. The major project underway in her research group is a community-based family study of affective spectrum disorders and their overlap with other mental disorders, especially anxiety disorders and medical disorders such as migraine and cardiovascular disease. The goal of this research is to identify the endophenotypes that are closer to the biologic expression of genes underlying these disorders and environmental moderators of genetic expression. Findings from this research are likely to have important implications for targets of prevention and treatment of affective illness.


Dr. Kathleen Ries Merikangas is Senior Investigator and Chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch in the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Dr. Merikangas received a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in experimental psychology and music from the University of Notre Dame. She received clinical training through an NIAAA-sponsored master's program and internship at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she continued to conduct clinical research on the Affective Disorders Clinical Research Unit while she pursued a Ph.D. in chronic disease epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. Through a Career Development Award from the NIMH, she completed postdoctoral training in population genetics/genetic epidemiology at the Yale University School of Medicine, where she joined the faculty and ultimately became a Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Psychiatry and Psychology and the Director of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Unit in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Selected Publications

Merikangas KR, Swendsen J, Hickie IB, Cui L, Shou H, Merikangas AK, Zhang J, Lamers F, Crainiceanu C, Volkow ND, Zipunnikov V (2019). Real-time Mobile Monitoring of the Dynamic Associations Among Motor Activity, Energy, Mood, and Sleep in Adults With Bipolar Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry 76, 190-198. [Pubmed Link ]

Johns JT, Di J, Merikangas K, Cui L, Swendsen J, Zipunnikov V (2019). Fragmentation as a novel measure of stability in normalized trajectories of mood and attention measured by ecological momentary assessment. Psychol Assess 31, 329-339. [Pubmed Link ]

Merikangas KR, Merikangas AK (2019). Harnessing Progress in Psychiatric Genetics to Advance Population Mental Health. Am J Public Health 109, S171-S175. [Pubmed Link ]

Paksarian D, Rudolph KE, Stapp EK, Dunster GP, He J, Mennitt D, Hattar S, Casey JA, James P, Merikangas KR (2020). Association of outdoor artificial light at night with mental disorders and sleep patterns among US adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry (epub ahead of print). [Pubmed Link ]

Merikangas KR, Cui L, Heaton L, Nakamura E, Roca C, Ding J, Qin H, Guo W, Shugart YY, Yao-Shugart Y, Zarate C, Angst J (2014). Independence of familial transmission of mania and depression: results of the NIMH family study of affective spectrum disorders. Mol Psychiatry 19, 214-9. [Pubmed Link ]

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