Explore This Research Lab

About the Program

The Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital conducts federally-funded psychophysiological and neuroimaging research into PTSD.

Our Research Focus

The research done at the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Laboratory seeks to understand both the causes of PTSD and preventative measures that can be taken to prevent its occurrence. Our current research includes:

  • Investigating a new, potentially novel treatment for PTSD. We are focused on determining whether medications administered at the time of traumatic memory reactivation can weaken the distressing emotional element of these memories through reconsolidation blockade or updating of the memories. This work is conducted both at Mass General and international subcontract sites.
  • An ongoing, large-scale, psychobiological investigation of a national sample of identical twins. Within each set of twins, one twin had combat exposure in Vietnam and the other did not
  • Maternal adaptation to the landmark event of childbirth. We are studying the psychological and biological mechanisms involved in mothers’ adaptation following a potentially traumatic childbirth experience. As a part of this, we are conducting a longitudinal and prospective study on pregnant women to gain insight into the various psychological reactions to childbirth, including postpartum depression, anxiety and the overlooked traumatic stress response
  • Examining the acute neurological soft signs following traumatic brain injury. This research seeks to determine whether these signs can predict the subsequent development of post-concussive, PTSD and other psychopathological symptoms

We welcome referrals for possible participants. Contact us to learn more.

Research Projects

Our researchers are engaged in an ongoing series of studies related to both causes and preventative measures for PTSD.  The laboratory is currently conducting the following studies.

Projects Currently Enrolling

Have You Had A Stressful Childbirth Experience?

In this novel study, we examine how having a stressful childbirth experience can influence a mother’s mind and body. We are measuring women’s emotional and physiological response to the recollection of their childbirth experiences.

Principal Investigator: Sharon Dekel

To learn more about this study, contact Dr. Dekel at sdekel@mgh.harvard.edu or 617-726-1352 or visit Mass General Brigham Clinical Trials.

Testing the Efficacy of Intranasal Oxytocin for the Prevention of Postpartum Depression

This novel study is testing a preventive intervention for women at risk for postpartum depression. It examines the effect of intranasal oxytocin in enhancing maternal bonding and reducing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms in mothers at risk.

Principal Investigator: Sharon Dekel

To learn more about this study, contact Dr. Dekel at sdekel@mgh.harvard.edu or 617-726-1352 or visit Mass General Brigham Clinical Trials.

Additional Studies

Incidence of and Risk Factors for Postpartum Post-traumatic Stress

This study examines how a woman’s experience of childbirth relates to her mental health and well-being. Women are monitored during pregnancy and through the postpartum period in order to learn about potential incidences of post-traumatic stress following childbirth.

Principal Investigator: Sharon Dekel

To learn more about this study, contact Dr. Dekel at sdekel@mgh.harvard.edu or 617-726-1352.

Positron Emission Tomographic Study of Cerebral Blood Flow During Traumatic Mental Imagery in PTSD

This study seeks to evaluate which regions of the brain are selectively activated during traumatic re-experiencing.

Principal Investigator: Roger K. Pitman

Secondary Prevention of PTSD with Propranolol

The major goal of this project is to investigate the effectiveness of the beta-adrenergic blocker propranolol to prevent the development of PTSD in patients presenting to the Mass General Emergency Department after a traumatic experience.

Principal Investigator: Roger K. Pitman

Prospective Psychophysiologic Study of Risk for PTSD

This project aims to examine a promising set of pre-trauma psychophysiologic, endocrinologic and psychometric measures for their ability to predict the occurrence of PTSD following exposure to traumatic events in firefighter, EMT and police recruits.

Principal Investigator: Scott P. Orr

Email Dr. Pitman
Publications by Dr. Pitman

Scott P. Orr, PhD
Associate Director
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Email Dr. Orr

Sharon Dekel, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Email Dr. Dekel
Publications by Dr. Dekel

Lisa Shin, PhD
Email Dr. Shin

Zohar Berman, PhD
Gabriella Dishy
Mark Greenberg, PhD
Elizabeth Hoge, MD
Natasha Lasko, PhD
Gus Mayopoulos, BA
Mohammed Milad, PhD
Christoph Mueller-Pfeiffer, MD
Kalayon Tanev, MD