Functional Neurology Research Group

Functional Neurology Research Group

The Functional Neurology Research Group at Massachusetts General Hospital, led by David Perez, MD, aims to identify biomarkers of disease, prognosis and treatment response for Functional Neurological Disorders.


The Functional Neurology Research Group uses advanced structural and functional brain magnetic resonance imaging techniques to study the biological basis of Functional Neurological Disorders and related conditions.

Patients with medically unexplained neurological symptoms including Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures, Functional Movement Disorders and Functional Weakness experience symptoms that are common yet poorly understood.

The mission of the Functional Neurology Research Group at Massachusetts General Hospital, working in collaboration with researchers at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and others within the Harvard Medical School hospital community, is to characterize brain circuit abnormalities in Functional Neurological Disorders.

Longitudinal studies also aim to probe brain biomarkers of prognosis and treatment response.

David Perez, MD, MMSc, is a dual trained Neurologist-Psychiatrist and Cognitive-Affective Neuroscientist. Clinically, Dr. Perez works in the Cognitive Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry Units at Mass General to diagnose and treat patients with Functional Neurological Disorders.


What can Neurology and Neurosurgery Learn from Psychiatry?

Video recording of a panel discussion with Bruce Price, MD, Ron Alterman, MD, Matcheri Keshavan, MD, and David Perez, MD, MMSc.

Brain scans help unravel the neurobiology of functional neurological (conversion) disorder

A Mass General research team has found altered connectivity among brain regions that handle sensorimotor, emotional and cognitive signaling in patients with functional neurological disorder, a common condition involving neurologic symptoms that have no readily apparent physical cause. Dr. Perez is co-senior author of the paper, which was published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Podcast: Assessing and Managing Patients with Functional Neurological Disorders

AAN 2018 Controversies in Neurology Plenary: David Perez and Andrea Leigh Haller discuss the assessment and management of patients with functional neurological disorders.

An Early Interdisciplinary Approach is Vital with FND Patients

(Coverage of a recent paper authored by David Perez, MD, Kathleen McKee, MD, Nicholas Kontos, MD, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital)

Motor functional neurologic disorders (FND)—previously termed “hysteria” and later “conversion disorder”—are exceedingly common and frequently encountered in the acute hospital setting. But despite their high prevalence, patients with motor FND can be challenging to diagnose accurately and manage effectively, say the authors. And, to date, there has been limited guidance on the inpatient approach to the neuropsychiatric evaluation.

BJM Talk Medicine podcast featuring Dr. Perez

Despite the prevalence of the disease, neurologists and psychiatrists can be wary of treating patients with functional neurological disorder (FND). Assistant Professor David Perez (Massachusetts General Hospital, USA) discusses how FND sits between neurological and psychiatric disciplines, the relationship between poor health status and affective symptoms, and associations with grey matter volumetric profiles.

Focus on functional neurological disorders

Within the behavioral neurology division at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. David Perez, a board certified neurologist and psychiatrist, cognitive-affective neuroscientist and neuroimaging researcher, has established a new clinical and research initiative in Functional Neurological Disorders (FND).

Brain alterations linked with symptoms of PTSD, functional neurologic disorders

Distinct structural alterations in cingulo-insular areas may be found in patients with symptoms of functional neurologic disorders (FNDs), as well as in those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or those who experienced childhood adverse events, suggests new neuroimaging research.

Brain structural changes linked to physical, mental health in functional neurological disorder (conversion disorder)

An imaging study by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has identified differences in key brain structures of individuals whose physical or mental health has been most seriously impaired by a common but poorly understood condition called functional neurological disorder (FND).

Group Members


David Perez

David L. Perez, MD, MMSc
Assistant in Neurology and Psychiatry
Assistant Professor of Neurology,
Harvard Medical School
Affiliated Faculty,
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging


Christopher D. Stephen, MB, ChB, MRCP

Christopher D. Stephen, MB, ChB, MRCP
Assistant in Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Instructor in Neurology, Harvard Medical School


Julie Maggio, PT, DPT, NCS

Julie Maggio, PT, DPT, NCS
Senior Physical Therapist



Anna Larson

Anna Larson, BS
Research Assistant
Graduate of University of Wisconsin—Madison


Priyanka Alluri

Priyanka Alluri, BA
Research Assistant
Graduate of Boston University


Ibai Diez

Ibaia Diez, PhD
University of the Basque Country, Spain


Vihang Nakhate

Vihang Nakhate
Harvard Medical School Student



Juan Botero

Juan Pablo Ospina Botero, MD
Universidad de los Andes, Colombia


Isabelle Gilman

Isabelle Gilman
Sophomore, Villanova University
Summer Research Student

Julie King

Julie King
University of Delaware
Summer Research Student

Rozita JalilianHasanpour, MD

Rozita JalilianHasanpour, MD
Laboratory Research Fellow
Graduate of Tehran University of Medical Sciences


Sara Makaretz

Sara J. Makaretz
BS, Tufts University
Nassim Matin

Nassim Matin, MD, MPH
Laboratory Research Fellow
Graduate of Tehran University of Medical Sciences

Benjamin Williams

Benjamin Williams, BS
Research Assistant
Graduate of Brown University


Sigrid Young

Sigrid Young
BS, Brown University



Research Projects

Neurobiology of Motor Functional Neurological Disorders and Related Conditions

This study uses structural and functional neuroimaging techniques, in conjunction with self-report and research administered questionnaires, to study brain-symptom relationships in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, functional movement disorders, functional weakness and related conditions.

Research Positions

Visiting Scholar Program: We are enthusiastic about offering external scientists the opportunity to join us in our daily research work and exchange new ideas and perspectives. We welcome individuals at different levels of clinical/academic training, with specific focus on providing students and trainees (undergraduate and graduate students, medical students, residents, and fellows) with exposure to clinical research in the fields of neurology and psychiatry, with a particular emphasis on clinical research in behavioral neurology/neuropsychiatry and Functional Neurological Disorders. Each application is handled and considered individually.

If interested, please contact the FNRG at


Please click on the link below to view recent publications by members of our research team.

See recent publications


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