The Tulane University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is a leader in clinical research that covers the developmental lifespan with investigators from multiple disciplines and a history of groundbreaking clinical research. We offer a wide range of sites, mentors, and unique training opportunities for young researchers. Training and support are provided at all levels of training including students, residents, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. We are committed to research that understands the underpinnings of complex mental issues and develops new treatments


Research News

Vinnie Khunkhun, MDPatient Preferences for Shared Decision Making in Mental Health Care

(10/7/21) Vinnie Khunkhun, MD, was the principal investigator on a paper recently published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling. Patients in our adult outpatient clinic were surveyed about their preferences for shared-decision making (SDM). For most clinical issues, more than 20% preferred heavy involvement in SDM while more than 20% trusted clinicians to make decisions. This suggest there are wide variations among patients in preferences for SDM. This important finding may explain why randomized trials to implement SDM strategies in mental health have largely been negative.

Amy Mikolajewski, PhDEarly Career Psychologist Award

(8/5/21) Amy Mikolajewski, PhD was recognized in June by the Louisiana Psychological Association with the 2021 Early Career Award.  This award is given to an individual who is within 10 years of completing their doctorate in psychology and who has distinguished themselves by contributing to psychology research, practice, or both during the initial years of their career. She was nominated by peers and chosen based on her impressive publication record and recent NIH funding.

Michael Scheeringa, MDLiterature Review: Prospective Evidence Does Not Support Popular Toxic Stress Theory

(3/31/21) Michael Scheeringa, MD reviewed all prospective studies which measured neurobiology prior to trauma experiences. Of ten studies capable of testing the toxic stress theory with neurobiology measured both pre- and post-trauma, only three were supportive. In contrast, of 25 studies capable of testing the competing diathesis stress theory, nineteen were supportive.  The review raised concerns about violation of the principle of exchangeability in trauma research, and has implications for understanding the true resilience of the human brain (International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, doi: 10.1002/mpr.1864)

Sara Gershen, LCSW Discovering the Taxonomy of How Patients Change Automatic Negative Thoughts
(12/16/20) Sara Gershen, LCSW leads a new research study at the Tulane University Behavioral Health Clinic-Metairie to understand how patients in psychotherapy deal with automatic negative thoughts. This will be the first known study to track attempts to identify negative thoughts, replace them with alternative positive thoughts, and change behaviors. What proportion of patients can do all three tasks versus only one or two of the tasks? Can one of the tasks be skipped? How long does it take to change behaviors?

Ashley Weiss, DO, MPHNew R01 Funded in the NIH Early Psychosis Intervention Network
(9/16/20) Ashley Weiss, DO, MPH (pictured) will serve as the local PI and Serena Chaudhry, PhD will serve as the Co-I as part of a new, multi-site project. The aim of the R01 award, part of the NIH Early Psychosis Intervention Network, will establish six sites forming a hub and spoke network of Coordinated Specialty Care clinical programs with the central hub in Indianapolis, Indiana. They will be testing new assessment and intervention strategies. Dr. Weiss is the founder of EPIC-NOLA, Tulane’s early psychosis clinic.

Vinnie Khunkhun, MDPatient Satisfaction and Preferences for Shared Decision Making
8/7/20) Vinnie Khunkhun, MD recently completed a research study at the Tulane University Behavioral Health Clinic-Metairie showing that patients were heterogeneous regarding both their levels of satisfaction with their care and preferences for shared decision making. The heterogeneity indicates that many patients are satisfied and many patients do not want greater shared decision making. This suggests one explanation for why one-size-fits-all interventions to improve patient satisfaction have often been disappointing in previous studies.

John Thompson, MDPenetrance Rate of COVID-19 Infection in a State Psychiatric Hospital
5/21/20). Tulane faculty published the first study on penetrance rates of COVID-19 infection in a psychiatric inpatient setting. Led by John Thompson, MD, they tested nearly all inpatients and staff. Following identification of the first symptomatic patient, 78% of individuals in the same unit tested positive despite following initial CDC guidelines. The authors concluded that universal masking prior to identification of the first symptomatic individual in this setting might prevent many cases of infection.
Full text is available at Psychiatric Services journal website.

Gina Manguna-Mire, PhDLouisiana Outpatient Competency Restoration Program
(3/27/20) Dr. Gina Manguno-Mire presented her research at the American Psychiatry-Law Society conference in New Orleans on March 6. Criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial can often be restored to competency through appropriate psychiatric treatment. Justice systems have traditionally treated such individuals in expensive and restrictive inpatient settings. Dr. Mire presented promising outcome data from 10 years of longitudinal data on a novel outpatient competency restoration program that she and other Tulane colleagues have helped run in the state of Louisiana.

Validation of the Diagnostic Infant Preschool Assessment (DIPA) in Danish
(2/6/20). Dr. Michael Scheeringa’s DIPA interview was translated and validated in a Danish sample of young children in a recent publication (Løkkegaard et al., 2019, Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology. DOI: 10.21307/sjcapp-2019-007). The DIPA has now been translated into seven languages and has become the most widely used psychiatric diagnostic interview about very young children in the world.

Stacy Drury, MD, PhDNIH Funding for Telomere Research Network
(12/4/19) NIH awarded a $2.9 million grant to Dr. Stacy Drury to lead a research network that will set methodological standards for studying telomeres. Drury will launch the Telomere Research Network to establish best practices for measuring telomere length in studies. Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that are thought to play an important role in age-related diseases.