Skip to contents
Pamela Mahon, PhD
Investigator, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Psychiatry
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115

Edit Profile

Research Narrative:

The overarching goal of my research program is to improve mood disorder outcomes by bettering our understanding of the neurobiology and epidemiology of mood trajectories across the lifespan. The objectives I am currently pursuing in order to achieve this goal are focused in three main areas:

  • Neurobiological mechanisms underlying functional and cognitive decline in mood disorder. Individuals with mood disorder often experience a decline in cognition and function in late life, including a two-fold increased risk of developing dementia if they have a history of depression. I employ state-of-the-art neuroimaging methods to investigate neurobiological mechanisms underlying changes in mood and cognition in later life. As an example, I found decreased availability of the antioxidant glutathione in the cingulate cortex in a small sample of middle and older-aged adults with bipolar disorder. I am currently following up this initial finding in a larger NIMH funded R01 project. I have also extended this work to look at the relationships between oxidative stress, depression and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in a funded pilot study.


  • Biomarkers for treatment response in mood disorder. Precision medicine is the future of psychiatric clinical care and having biomarkers that can reliably predict treatment response is a critical component. I utilize multidisciplinary approaches, including genomics and neuroimaging, in order to develop biomarkers to predict response to treatment in mood disorder. For example, I have a manuscript under review identifying a particular pattern of functional brain activation and connectivity in limbic and prefrontal regions that correlates with response to lithium treatment in bipolar disorder. A second manuscript in progress examines morphometry of subcortical limbic structures in relation to lithium response in bipolar disorder.


  • Stress neuroendocrinology and mood. One of the most replicated risk factors for developing a mood disorder is the presence of early life stress. Therefore, bettering our understanding of the neurobiology of the stress response may also help elucidate mechanisms underlying the development of a mood disorder. To this end, I have identified genetic variation in two candidate genes, FKBP5 and CRHR1, associated with HPA-axis response to psychosocial stress. I also expanded on previous reports of sex-dependent differences in HPA-axis stress response, finding evidence that testosterone levels in men and progesterone levels in 2 women correlate with HPA-axis stress response. This sex-dependent difference in HPA-axis response to
    stress may in part explain the difference in rates of mood disorder in men and women. Work in progress is examining epigenetic factors related to HPA-axis response in healthy young adults.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2007, PhD
Boston University, 2002, BA

Additional News: