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ETPB primary image Experimental Therapeutics & Pathophysiology Branch

Mark Kvarta, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo of Mark Kvarta, MD, PhD
Staff Clinician
Mark Kvarta, M.D., Ph.D., is the Director of the Outpatient Mood Disorders Clinic and Chief of Stress Pathophysiology Research in the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch (ETPB) at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Kvarta is the Director of the Outpatient Mood Disorders Clinic and Chief of Stress Pathophysiology Research in the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch (ETPB) at the National Institute of Mental Health. He received his undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude from Cornell University. At the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience under Dr. Scott Thompson, with a thesis focused on synaptic and behavioral study on the opposing effects of stress and antidepressants in hippocampal circuits, and subsequently received his M.D. there. He then completed a psychiatry residency in the Physician-Scientist Training Program, a research track, at the University of Maryland / Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital Psychiatry Residency Program. During this time, he conducted postdoctoral studies in clinical translational research under the mentorship of Dr. L. Elliot Hong, studying functional neuroimaging and neurogenetics. Upon completion of his residency, he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Physiology, establishing a neuroimaging lab focused on stress pathophysiology, genetics, and circuit biomarkers of serious mental illness within the Neuroimaging Research Program at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. Dr. Kvarta joined ETPB in the Intramural Research Program in 2023. He is certified in Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Research Interests

The expression of mood is an extremely complex interplay of mind and brain, biology and psychology. Dysfunction of the vast and myriad networks of the brain from the synaptic to the circuit level can be imposed by genetic and environmental causes - and by their interactions. Neurocircuitry involved in stress processing and regulation is impacted in depressed mood states, and these impacts may be both cause and consequence of disrupted mood. Dr. Kvarta is interested in the intersection of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological contributions to the expression of mood-related symptoms. In particular, he is working to understand the different ways in which these multiple levels of analysis can together fingerprint specific phenotypes of depression, like treatment-resistant depression, and predict response to specific modalities of treatment to guide clinical care. His focus is on linking neuroimaging, neuroendocrine function, and genetics to multiple domains of stress experience across the lifespan and clinical measures of depression and antidepressant response in patients.

Selected Publications

Aberrant anterior cingulate processing of anticipated threat as a mechanism for psychosis . Kvarta MD, Chiappelli J, West J et al. 2021 Jul 30:313:111300. Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. PMID: 34010783

Multiple Dimensions of Stress vs. Genetic Effects on Depression . Kvarta MD, Bruce, HA, Hong LE et al. 2021 Apr 29;11(1)254. Translational Psychiatry. PMID: 33927182

Illuminating a path from light to depression.  LeGates TA & Kvarta MD. 2020 Jul;23(7):785-787. Nat Neurosci. PMID: 32555525

Synaptic plasticity at the hippocampus-nucleus accumbens synapse facilitates reward and is altered in response to chronic stress . LeGates TA, Kvarta MD, Francis TC et al. 2018 Dec;564(7735):258-262. Nature. PMID: 30478293

Rapid Antidepressant Action and Restoration of Excitatory Synaptic Strength After Chronic Stress by Negative Modulators of Alpha5-Containing GABAA Receptors . Fischell J, Van Dyke AM, Kvarta MD. 2015 Oct;40(11):2499-509. Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID: 25900119