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Yue Chen, PhD

Yue Chen, PhD

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


Yue Chen, PhD, has training in the fields of opto-electric engineering, vision sciences, and psychopathology. Presently, Dr. Chen is director of the Visual Psychophysiology Laboratory, conducting psychological and neuroimaging research in psychiatric populations and is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He receives funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the face processing system in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

Dr. Chen is the author of more than 60 research articles on the perception, cognition, and neurobiology of major psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism. He serves as an editorial board member for scientific and biomedical journals such as Current Psychiatry Reviews.

Research Focus:

Some people with neuropsychiatric disorders literally see the world differently, leading to functional challenges and distress in their lives. Dr. Chen’s Visual Psychophysiology Laboratory, established in 2004, studies the brain mechanisms involved in visual perception, focusing on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and aging. Dr. Chen aims to better understand the core dysfunctions and underlying brain mechanisms in major psychiatric disorders and improve impaired behavioral and cortical responses in patients. Guided by science, he develops therapeutic strategies that enhance visual and cognitive function, promote a more integrated view of the world, and improve patients’ quality of life.

Visual processing is a highly active research field within neuroscience and psychiatry. Its potential lies in translating the knowledge of this extensively explored field of brain and behavioral science into relevant psychiatric research.

Analysis of visual processing enables the ability to locate deficits in different levels of brain mechanisms and develop perceptual training programs that can address them. For example, Dr. Chen has identified specific brain mechanisms that link to certain vision-related traits and states of schizophrenia. These findings are contributing to the development of meaningful assessments and interventions for the disorder.

To understand the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, Dr. Chen studies visual, visual cognitive, and visuomotor processes such as perceptual and biological motion processing and facial recognition. This focus on the visual system provides a window into different brain mechanisms associated with major psychiatric disorders.

Using psychophysical, neurocognitive, and neuroimaging approaches, Dr. Chen examines behavioral performance and cortical response in schizophrenia and autism patients, as well as their biological relatives. He is particularly interested in the linkage of the brain and visual behaviors in both normal and diseased populations.

Psychophysics targets the physical properties of the visual world. Dr. Chen measures patients’ behavioral response to changing visual cues—for example, subtle changes in direction of motion or slightly altered facial identities. Using this data, he characterizes the capacity of the visual system in patients and develops customized visual challenge programs to improve visual processing, an approach that has been successful in schizophrenia and certain visual tasks.

In addition, neuroimaging techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) help to explore how visual processing is mediated in the sensory cortex and beyond. Using this data, Dr. Chen identifies the pattern of abnormal cortical response during visual perception and pinpoints the neural substrates that link to deficient visual capacities in patients.


SchizophreniaAutismTranslational Research


  • Stephen Maher, PhD, Research Fellow
  • Sarah Salcone, Research Assistant


Selected Publications:

Chen Y, Nakayama K, Levy DL, Matthysse S, Holzman PS. Psychological isolation of motion processing deficit in schizophrenics and their relatives and its association with smooth pursuit dysfunction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1999;96:4724-4729.

Chen Y, Grossman ED, Bidwell LC, Yurgelun-Todd, D, Gruber SA, Levy DL, Nakayama K, Holzman PS. Differential activation patterns of occipital and prefrontal cortices during motion processing: evidence from normal and schizophrenic brains. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience 2008;8:293-303.

Chen Y, Norton, D, McBain R, Öngür D, Heckers S. Visual and cognitive processing of face information in schizophrenia: detection, discrimination and working memory. Schizophrenia Research 2009;107:92-8.

PubMed search for Dr. Chen

Education & Training:

  • 1982 BE Electro-optical Engineering, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology
  • 1988 MS Optics, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology
  • 1995 PhD in Physiological Optics/Vision Science, University of Houston
  • 1995-1997 Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Psychology/Psychopathology, Harvard University
  • 1997-1998 Research Fellowship in Psychopathology, Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital




Office Address:

Belmont campus - Centre Building, Room G6