Godfrey D Pearlson MA, MD, MBBS

Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurobiology

Biographical Info

Dr. Pearlson's medical training was in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England . Following this he completed a graduate degree in philosophy at Columbia University in New York and was successively a resident, postdoctoral fellow and faculty member at Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry under Dr. Paul McHugh, where he was ultimately Professor of Psychiatry and founding director of the division of Psychiatry Neuroimaging.

Dr. Pearlson is currently founding director of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, a 50-person organization consisting of 4 component labs. The Center specializes in the translational neuroscience of major mental illness, including dementias, mood disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder, PTSD, autism and other conditions spanning childhood to old age.

The center includes two 3-Tesla research-dedicated MRI scanners and scans over 1200 individuals annually, all of whom are genotyped. It also specializes in the importation of virtual reality (VR) paradigms into the functional MRI environment to yield ecologically valid "virtual environments" to study complex behaviors in the scanner such as automobile driving.

Dr. Pearlson's research uses neuroimaging as a tool to address a broader array of questions regarding the neurobiology of major mental disorders, primarily psychosis and substance abuse. Important "firsts" include showing that structural and functional brain changes associated with schizophrenia can also occur in psychotic bipolar disorder, the relationship of structural and functional abnormalities in the superior temporal gyrus with hallucinations in schizophrenia, using VR to explore complex behaviors in the MRI scanner (or example simulated driving) to assess disruptive effects of abused substances and the first demonstration of human in-vivo cocaine-mediated dopamine release using PET ligands.

Dr. Pearlson is a current NIMH MERIT awardee and holds six R01 grants from NIAAA, NIDA and NIMH. He has been awarded a NARSAD distinguished investigator award and a Michael visiting professorship from the Weizmann Institute. He is published ~275 peer-reviewed research articles. He is also co-founder of the annual BrainDance competition for high school and college students across New England. These competitive awards encourage students to gain knowledge about psychiatric diseases and to develop a more tolerant and realistic perspective towards people with severe psychiatric problems.

Current important intra-departmental collaborations are with Drs. Krystal (CTNA), Gelernter and Potenza.

International Activity

  • Community Garden
    Hartford, United States(2013)
    BTS Jessie's community garden grows and supplies food to homeless and needy in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Annual BrainDance Competition
    United States(2006)
    Encourages mental illness awareness through awards for essays and art projects from students in high school, throughout Connecticut on the theme of stigma associated with psychiatric disorders.

Education & Training

Newcastle University (1974)
Columbia University (1976)

Honors & Recognition

  • Stanley Dean Schizophrenia Research Award
    American College of Psychiatrists (2015)
  • Michael Visiting Professorship
    Weizmann Inst. Israel (2000)
  • Distinguished Life Fellow
    American Psychiatric Association (2014)
  • Nelson Butters Award
    National Academy of Neuropsychology (2011)
  • MERIT Award
    National Institute of Mental Health (2008)
  • NARSAD Distinguished Investigator
    NARSAD (now Brain Behavior Foundation) (2000)
  • Ziskin-Somerfeld Research Award
    Society of Biological Psychiatry (1996)

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