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Mood Brain & Development Unit

Mood Brain and Development Unit - Who We Are

Principal Investigator

Argyris Stringaris, MD, PhD, MRCPsych

Argyris Stringaris, MD, PhD, FRCPsych is a Senior Investigator at NIMH who researches and treats depression and related conditions in young people. He is also Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Georgetown University. He trained in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in London and received his PhD from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. He served as an Attending Physician (Consultant Psychiatrist) at the National and Specialist Mood Disorder Clinic at the Maudsley and was a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry. He held an advanced Wellcome Trust fellowship and his research was funded by the National Institute of Health Research and the UK Biomedical Centre. His work on mood disorders has been awarded the 2014 Klingenstein Foundation Prize by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the 2010 Research Prize from the European Psychiatric Association (EPA). His most recent book (co-authored with Eric Taylor) was published by Oxford University Press and awarded a High Commendation by the British Medical Association (2016). In 2018, Dr Stringaris was awarded the National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Mentor Award. In 2018 Dr Stringaris was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists as mark of distinction and recognition for his contributions to psychiatry. In 2019, Dr Stringaris received the 2019 Gerald L Klerman Young Investigator (under 45 years) Prize, the highest honor that the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance gives to members of the scientific community. Also, Dr Stringaris was awarded the NIH Director’s Award for “for exemplary performance while demonstrating significant leadership, skill and ability in serving as a mentor.” Dr Stringaris is President Elect (2019-2021) for the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.

Staff Scientist

Dylan Nielson, PhDDylan Nielson, PhD: Dylan is a staff scientist in the Mood Brain & Development Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health. He has more than ten years of experience in neuroimaging and data analysis starting as a post-baccalaureate research fellow in the NIMH in 2007. He conducted research on neurostimulation, imaging analysis methods, and human memory while completing his PhD at The Ohio State University. After that, he completed a data science fellowship at The Data Incubator before a brief interlude as a mortgage fraud analyst with Freddie Mac. He returned to the NIMH as part of the Data Science and Sharing Team where he contributed to a range of open source neuroimaging tools. As part of the MBDU, Dr. Nielson is leading neuroimaging analyses in the lab and helping with the development of novel tasks and models to explore the interaction of mood and cognition.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Hanna Keren, PhDHanna Keren, PhD: With an engineering background and a PhD in dynamics and control of neural network activity, my aim is to utilize computational-engineering concepts to better understand depression mechanisms. Towards this aim, I’m exploring the relation between environmental cues, brain activity, and emotional states. I address these questions in the context of reinforcement learning models and reward processing, and by developing a novel real-time methodology for closed-loop mood control. This control framework would enable the unique study of aberrations in neural dynamics and reward processing during mood transitions.

Dr. Georgia O’Callaghan, PhDGeorgia O’Callaghan, PhD: I completed my PhD at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, where I studied impulsivity and risk-taking using a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging techniques. I currently serve as the MBDU's Research Data Officer, regulating data acquisition and providing solutions to data retrieval, integration, quality, storage and management. I have taken lead on the development and maintenance of the clinical database for the team. As part of this I also manage and program our custom online data collection platform.

illustration of brain image used when no staff photo is availableDipta Saha, PhD: I am currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow at MBDU. I completed my PhD in theoretical physics at University of Florida. I worked as a postdoctoral research associate (Theoretical/Computational Neuroscience) at Brown University before joining MBDU. I also worked as a Data Scientist before joining Brown University. My current research focuses on building a model that can predict the depressive state of mind using fMRI longitudinal data.I am also interested in the theoretical modeling of human brain states to understand the different states of Mood.

Lucrezia Liuzzi, PhDLucrezia Liuzzi, PhD: I recently joined the MBDU as a postdoctoral fellow. I have a background in physics and completed my PhD at the University of Nottingham in the UK as part of the Magnetoencephalography (MEG) group. The focus of my PhD has been of functional connectivity measures in MEG data, exploring time dynamics of functional networks in whole brain analysis during rest and task, and relating neural oscillations to attention and neurochemistry. As part of the MBDU I aim to study reward processing and mood changes through a multi-modal approach incorporating M/EEG and fMRI methods.

Song Qi, PhDSong Qi, PhD: Song received his PhD in social and decision neuroscience at Caltech, where he studied neural mechanisms underlying fear and anxiety. With a background in engineering and information science, he is broadly interested in human cognition and decision making. In particular, he explores how decision-making behaviors are optimized under threat and social influence, using a combination of ecologically inspired paradigms, BOLD fMRI, and computational modeling. Before moving to the D.C. area, Song was a former New Yorker and beneficiary of LA sunlight. Outside of research, he enjoys literature, sub-cultures, fashion, and video games.

Clinicians

Dr. Ken Towbin, MDKen Towbin, MD: Dr. Towbin is the Chief of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Emotion and Development Branch and a Senior Research Physician in the Intramural Research Program at NIMH. He also is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Towbin has been with NIMH for 17 years, and has extensive and diverse experience in child and adolescent psychiatry. ‪ He has authored on the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders of children and his work at NIMH now focuses on depression in teens and pediatric mood disorders. Dr. Towbin is a Diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, in both General Psychiatry and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Chana Engel, CRNPChana Engel, CRNP: I am a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, having completed my nurse practitioner coursework at Columbia University while also gaining valuable experience as a psychiatric nurse in New York City. I spent seven years working as the first psychiatric nurse practitioner in the Section on Bipolar Spectrum Disorders here at the NIMH, before joining the Mood Brain & Development Unit. I am particularly interested in the translation of experimental therapeutic methods to clinical practice in mood and anxiety disorders.

Erin GarthErin Garth, NP: I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and completed my nurse practitioner coursework at the University of Pennsylvania, and undergraduate degree in Biology at Washington University. Prior to joining the MBDU team, I worked for 5 years at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and 8 years at Children’s National Health System providing clinical care and doing research. I have extensive experience providing care to pediatric patients with chronic medical and mental health illnesses, in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Dr. Kathryn DeLonga, Psy.D.Kathryn DeLonga, PsyD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of the MBDU Psychological Treatment Program. She provides direct clinical care to children, adolescents, and families and provides training and consultation to clinicians. She earned her doctorate at PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium and her undergraduate degree at Princeton University. Prior clinical settings include Stanford School of Medicine Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Denver Health Medical Center, San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and middle school, college counseling, and community-based mental health centers. Her areas of specialization include Evidence-Based Treatments for mood, anxiety and related conditions in individuals across the lifespan. Learn about Dr. DeLonga’s speaking events in the community.

Mollie Davis, MSW, LCSW-CMollie Davis, MSW, LCSW-C: Mollie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Staff Clinician with the MBDU. She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work, with a specialization in clinical care and mental health, from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Mollie has considerable expertise in the assessment of mood disorders and in research measures of mood and anxiety disorders. She has a deep experience with clinical care in the context of research. Mollie has been with NIMH for ten years, and prior to joining the MBDU performed diagnostic assessments and tracked the course of children and adolescents with chronic, impairing irritability. Her recent work has been in implementing novel applications of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in this population. Mollie’s experience prior to coming to NIMH includes responsibility for the clinical care of adolescents in a long-term psychiatric residential treatment unit, providing psychotherapy to active duty personnel at the Pentagon, and facilitating international adoptions.

Jerry McGuire, RN, BSNJerry McGuire, RN, BSN: Jerry is a Research Nurse with the MBDU. He has his Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Creighton University. Jerry comes from a Community Health background, first as a clinical nurse and later as a Certified Diabetic Educator. As a diabetes educator, he collaborated with Nebraska Medicine Diabetes Education Program collecting data outcomes on clinic patients with gestational diabetes. He also worked in Teen and Young Adult clinic doing sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and treatment as well as offering STI and reproductive health education in the clinic and at area schools.  For the past four years he has worked as a school nurse in both elementary and middle schools.

Diana RodriguezDiana Rodriguez, RN: I am a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marymount University and two undergraduate degrees from the University of Maryland in criminal justice and psychology. I recently obtained a Master’s in public administration from George Mason University.  Prior to my current role at NIH, I have held various nursing positions, including within the hospital setting as a NICU and emergency room nurse, and later as a home visiting nurse to first-time, low-income mothers with the goal of improving maternal-child health outcomes.  Before joining MBDU, I served as the risk manager for a local community services board where I focused on incident report management and human rights investigations. I am excited to be a part of the MBDU team as I see it as a way to contribute to the understanding of teen depression in a meaningful way.

Data Scientist

Neda Sadeghi, PhDNeda Sadeghi, PhD: Neda has more than 10 years of experience in organization and management of neuroimaging research projects involving subjects of different age groups. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at NICHD and NIBIB where she worked n development of advanced statistical and machine learning techniques to discover imaging biomarkers. She received her PhD. from the University of Utah, where she developed a longitudinal model of early brain development as reflected in diffusion MRI. Additionally, she developed methods for prediction of individual trajectories with potential for personalized medicine. Outside of research, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, and being outdoors snowboarding, mountain biking, and playing tennis.

PhD Students

Jiazhou ChenJiazhou Chen: I am a PhD student in the UCL-NIMH Joint Doctoral Training Program in Neuroscience, supervised by Dr. Argyris Stringaris at the Section on Clinical and Computational Psychiatry and Dr. Quentin Huys at UCL. I completed my undergraduate training (BS in psychology and BA in economics) at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining the lab, I worked as a research programmer at the Decision Neuroscience and Psychopathology Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. My research focuses on using computational modeling and brain imaging techniques to investigate the role of emotion in decision making and learning in the context of understanding maladaptive behaviors related to depression, such as anhedonia. I plan to further my research by implementing machine learning, multi-modality brain imaging and a trans-diagnostic dimensional approach to psychopathology.

Marie ZeleninaMarie Zelenina: I am a pre-doctoral IRTA fellow, co-supervised by Dr Argyris Stringaris, and Dr Diana Prata from the University of Lisbon, Portugal. Prior to joining the lab, I obtained an MSc in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, UK and an MSc in Neurobiology from the University of Porto, Portugal, and did research in human social neuroscience, focusing on the effect of oxytocin on resting-state EEG networks. Outside of research, I enjoy cooking and eating my way through the world’s map, spending time in nature and winter sports. I am also an eager, albeit not very proficient, runner and climber.

Postbaccalaureate Fellows

Lily EisnerLily Eisner: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow in MBDU, led by Dr. Stringaris. I graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018 with a BA in Chemistry modified with Mathematics and a minor in English. At Dartmouth, I interrogated relationships between mathematical network formation and disparities in women’s reproductive health. After graduating from Dartmouth, I worked for two years at YWCA USA, a national non-profit dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. I hope to continue combining my passions for research and racial/social justice by pursuing a career in the fields of health disparities and epidemiology. Outside of my research, I enjoy cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, and making other people laugh.

Chris CampChris Camp: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA Fellow with the Mood, Brain, and Disorder Unit under the leadership of Dr. Argyris Stringaris. I graduated in 2019 from Duke University with a BS in Neuroscience and Minors in Spanish and Music. My research experience has involved graph theory analyses of fMRI data exploring a range of tasks and attributes including creativity, addictions, and counterfactual thinking. I completed an honors thesis my senior year investigating hippocampal integration during counterfactual thinking. I hope to apply these graph theoretical techniques to examine longitudinal changes in the brain network architecture of individuals with depression and anxiety. I plan to continue my research with a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience.

Lisa GorhamLisa Gorham: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow in Dr. Stringaris’s Mood Brain & Development Unit. I completed my BA in Cognitive Neuroscience with a minor in Global Health at Washington University in St. Louis, where I studied the relationships between hippocampal volume, involvement in sports, and depressive symptoms in preadolescent children under the direction of Dr. Deanna Barch. I am interested in using longitudinal research to identify risk factors and potential treatments for adolescent depression. In order to pursue these research questions, I hope to get an MD/PhD and go into child and adolescent psychiatry.

Payton ForsPayton Fors: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow in the Mood Brain Development Unit, headed by Dr. Argyris Stringaris. In spring of 2020, I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. There, I received a BA in cognitive neuroscience and conducted research on child electronic media use and depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as child electronic media use, their cognitive abilities, and their functional brain connectivity. Within the MBDU, I desire to expand my work to help better understand the impact our digital age and our life circumstances have on the biological and emotional development of children. In the future, I intend to go to medical school and pursue psychiatry.

Jeremy TaigmanJeremy Taigman: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA Fellow in the Mood Brain & Development Unit. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a BS in Neuroscience. Under Dr. Soo-Eun Chang at the UM Speech Neurophysiology Lab, I investigated rhythm perception ability in adults who stutter.  I am interested in adolescent socio-emotional health; I hope to pursue a career in medicine and continue working with children diagnosed with mood disorders.

Karen QiKaren Qi: I am a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow at the MBDU, led by Dr. Stringaris. I graduated from Rice University in 2020 with a BA in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, I conducted research at Baylor College of Medicine on the relationship between habenula connectivity and psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse and depression. I am currently interested in studying the use of psychological therapies to address deficits in reward processing. In the future, I hope to attend medical school and pursue a career in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Volunteers

Ioanna Douka, MDaIoanna Douka, MD: I am a special volunteer in Dr. Stringaris’s Mood Brain & Development Unit. I am a medical graduate from the School of Health Sciences of the University of Patras, which is located in Greece, and I have completed Step 1 of the USMLE. I have also completed a clinical rotation in Psychiatry at the Episcopal Hospital of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. My current project at the NIMH is about the development of a new screening method of measuring anhedonia. My long-term plan is to become a Psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of children and adolescents.