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Katherine Burdick, PhD
Lead Investigator, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Member of the Faculty, Harvard Medical School

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

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Research Narrative:

Bio/Research Synopsis: A clinical neuropsychologist by training, my research has focused on identifying persistent cognitive deficits in major psychiatric disorders, understanding their etiologies, and directly targeting them with treatment. My work has included basic psychometric studies of cognition in bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia (SZ) in an effort to determine the architecture of the deficits and how to optimize measurement of these impairments. I also co-edited the first published book on cognitive dysfunction in BD, which provided an overview of this growing field and emphasized clinical implications. I have been consistently funded by foundations and the federal government to study cognition across the major psychiatric diagnoses. My NIMH K23 Career Development Award targeted the aspects of cognitive dysfunction in BD that are related to the underlying genetic risk associated with the illness. We collected a large sample of discordant sibling pairs and assessed a wide range of potential endophenotypes (e.g. cognition, temperament, impulsivity) in this sample. I have also led a number of studies designed to determine the influence of genetic variation on cognition in patients with SZ and BD and methodologies used in genome-wide studies of cognition. Additional current funding from an NIH R01MH100125 and a VA Merit Award is focused on understanding the cognitive heterogeneity in patients with psychosis and identifying clinical and biological predictors of cognitive outcome. My lab is currently expanding upon this work using a longitudinal design in an effort to address when cognitive deficits emerge and how they unfold over time in individuals with bipolar disorder. These are critical questions in developing interventions and strategies to prevent cognitive decline in bipolar patients. Some of my work highlights the need to intervene to correct these cognitive deficits, which are directly related to functional outcome and quality of life. I completed a Stanley-funded controlled trial of pramipexole for cognitive enhancement in BD, which was one of the first efforts in the field to begin to target this domain. This experience led to subsequent funding for three additional ongoing clinical trials targeting cognition pharmacologically (NIMH R34 award; NIMH R01MH102257; and NARSAD), which will continue to be a focus of my work. There is much still to accomplish in understanding cognition in bipolar patients but the past decade has seen considerable advances and we continue to move to an even broader goal of studying these disabling symptoms across the full range of major mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and more recently major depressive disorder.