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Marc J. Kaufman, PhD

Marc J. Kaufman, PhD

McLean Hospital Title:
Harvard Medical School Title:
  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry


Dr. Kaufman is director of McLean Hospital’s Translational Imaging Laboratory, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, co-director of the NIDA T32 post-doctoral training program at McLean, and a Partners Human Research Committee member. He conducts translational research in addiction, psychiatric, and neurodegenerative disorders and received the Jack H. Mendelson Memorial Research Award for outstanding substance abuse research contributions (2010), a NARSAD Independent Investigator Award (2010), and a Rapid Response Innovation Award from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (2011).

Dr. Kaufman has been a consultant reviewer for the Veteran’s Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Wellcome Research Trust, and numerous journals, and was recently appointed a charter member of the NIH Addiction Risks and Mechanisms study section (2015-2018). He is on the board of directors of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (2013-2017), and the board of consulting editors of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Research Focus:

The creative use of neuroimaging and other techniques is helping McLean scientists better diagnose and develop new treatments for a range of conditions including substance use disorders, neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Dr. Kaufman’s Translational Imaging Laboratory, founded in 2004, executes preclinical, clinical, and translational studies using innovative neuroimaging techniques to investigate the structure, function, and metabolism of the brain. Dr. Kaufman and his lab interpret brain images in the context of additional behavioral and histological (tissue structure) assessments.

Magnetic resonance imaging techniques, including structural imaging (MRI), functional imaging (fMRI), and spectroscopy (MRS), which measures brain chemistry, are noninvasive and thus can be used both in humans and in animals to study multiple aspects of brain structure and function.

Dr. Kaufman’s research goal is to use magnetic resonance imaging methods in preclinical models of addiction, compulsive behavior disorders, and psychotic disorders, as well as in humans with those disorders, to advance the understanding of pathogenesis and pathophysiology of these disorders and to develop new diagnostic methods and treatments.

Recent projects include a study of mice that develop compulsive grooming behavior thought to model aspects of human obsessive compulsive and related disorders. Using a form of chemical imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Dr. Kaufman’s group found abnormal brain metabolism and oxidative stress, which parallels findings in humans with compulsive behavior disorders. This work holds promise for enabling earlier diagnosis and treatment of compulsive behavior disorders.

The lab used fMRI in tobacco smokers about to begin smoking cessation treatment to document that greater fMRI reactivity to smoking related images (e.g., of cigarettes or of other people smoking) predicted subsequent relapse. This finding could lead to new ways to reduce relapse risk among the many tobacco smokers who try to quit smoking.

Dr. Kaufman also used fMRI in a preclinical study to compare the effects of two different opioid analgesics, fentanyl (mu receptor-selective) and U69,593 (kappa receptor-selective), in nonhuman primate brain. Kappa-selective analgesics are being developed for use as pain medications because they have low abuse liability and thus their use is not likely to increase risk for developing opioid dependence, which has become a national epidemic. Fentanyl and U69,593 differentially activated the brain, and their differences could help identify which brain circuits to selectively target to achieve analgesia. The nonhuman primate model that the lab developed thus could play a role in advancing development of the next generation of opioid analgesics.

The lab used MRS in a preclinical study of SAPAP3 knockout mice—which model aspects of human obsessive compulsive and related disorders (OCRD)—to determine whether these mice exhibit neurochemical abnormalities found in humans with OCRD. Dr. Kaufman and his staff found low levels of the energy intermediate lactic acid and of the key antioxidant molecule glutathione in knockout mouse striatum. They interpreted this finding as reflecting high levels of striatal metabolism and oxidative stress, consistent with findings in humans with OCRD. Dr. Kaufman’s group is collaborating with Dr. Brian Brennan on an MRS study of brain glutathione levels in humans with OCRD to determine whether SAPAP3 knockout mouse findings translate to humans. If so, this mouse model could help advance diagnosis and treatment of OCRD.


NeuroimagingAddictionNeurodegenerative DiseasesPTSDTranslational Research



Selected Publications:

Janes AC, Pizzagalli DA, Richardt S, deB Frederick B, Chuzi S, Pachas G, Culhane MA, Holmes AJ, Fava M, Evins AE, Kaufman MJ. Brain reactivity to smoking cues prior to smoking cessation predicts ability to maintain tobacco abstinence. Biological Psychiatry 2010;67(8):722-9.

Kaufman MJ, Janes AC, Frederick BD, Brimson-Théberge M, Tong Y, McWilliams SB, Bear A, Gillis TE, Schrode KM, Renshaw PF, Negus SS. A method for conducting functional MRI studies in alert nonhuman primates: initial results with opioid agonists in male cynomolgus monkeys. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2013;21(4):323-31.

Mintzopoulos D, Gillis TE, Robertson H, Dalia T, Feng G, Rauch SL, Kaufman MJ. Striatal magnetic resonance spectroscopy abnormalities in young adult SAPAP3 knockout mice. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging 2016;1(1):39-48.

PubMed search for Dr. Kaufman

Education & Training:

  • 1983 BA in Biology and Psychology, Wesleyan University
  • 1990 PhD in Neurotoxicology and Neuropharmacology, Johns Hopkins University
  • 1989-1992 NIH Post-Doctoral Fellow, New England Primate Research Center




Office Address:

Belmont campus - McLean Imaging Center, Room 129