Helen Blair Simpson, MD, PhD

Helen Blair Simpson, MD, PhD

Research Interest

  • Vice Chair of Research, Department of Psychiatry
  • Director, Translational Therapeutics Program, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York NY
  • Co-Researcher Director, The Youth Anxiety Center, NY-Presbyterian Hospital, New York NY
  • Director, Center for Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York NY

My research program seeks to transform our understanding of and treatments for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  My long-term goal is to determine what causes symptoms like anxiety, obsessions and compulsions and to identify novel brain targets for treatment development.

For the patients of today, I conduct clinical trials to determine how best to deliver our current treatments and to test novel treatments. For the patients of tomorrow, I partner with cognitive neuroscientists, experts in neuroimaging (including positron emission tomography, task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy), and basic scientists to study the brain mechanisms underlying psychopathology. My overall approach is to conduct bi-directional translational research: to use insights from basic and cognitive neuroscience to design studies in patient populations and to use insights from human studies to help guide future animal studies. In addition to my basic science and imaging collaborators, my research team includes research psychiatrists, doctoral level scientists, and research staff in the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and the Center for OCD and Related Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute, both of which I direct. My work is supported by NIMH grants, foundations, and philanthropy.

  • Weill Cornell Medical College
  • Residency: New York State Psychiatric Institute
  • Fellowship: New York State Psychiatric Institute
  • Simpson HB, Foa EB, Liebowitz MR, Huppert JD, Cahill S, Maher MJ, McLean CP, Bender J, Marcus SM, Williams MT, Waver J, Vermes D, Van Meter PE, Rodriguez CI, Powers M, Pinto A, Imms P, Hahn C, Campeas R: Cognitive-behavioral therapy vs risperidone for augmenting serotonin reuptake inhibitors in obsessive-compulsive disorder: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry 2013; 70(11): 1190-9.
  • Ahmari SE, Spellman T, Douglass NL, Kheirbek MA, Simpson HB, Deisseroth K, Gordon JA, Hen R: Repeated cortico-striatal stimulation generates persistent OCD-like behavior. Science 2013; 340(6137): 1234-9.
  • Pinto A, Steinglass JE, Greene AL, Weber EU, Simpson HB: Capacity to delay reward differentiates obsessive-compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Biological Psychiatry 2014; 75(8): 653-659.
  • Marsh R, Tau GZ, Wang Z, Huo Y, Liu G, Hao X, Packard MJ, Peterson BS, Simpson HB: Reward-based spatial learning in unmedicated adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 2015; 172(4): 383-392.
  • The ENIGMA-OCD Working Group (of which Dr. Helen Blair Simpson is a member): Distinct subcortical volume alterations in pediatric and adult OCD: A worldwide meta- and mega-analysis. The American Journal of Psychiatry (in press).