Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD

Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD

McLean Hospital Title
  • Director, Program for Neuropsychiatric Research

Harvard Medical School Title
  • Robertson-Steele Professor of Psychiatry


Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, leads a multidisciplinary research program on the causes of psychiatric disorders, with the goal of developing new, more effective, and better tolerated treatments. He and his colleagues employ pharmacologic, brain imaging, epidemiologic, genomic, and cell model approaches to study neuropsychiatric disorders. Collaborating investigators work at McLean and other sites, including the Broad Institute, Harvard University, and MIT. Dr. Cohen has directed clinical and laboratory research projects at McLean for over 40 years. He is the founding director of the McLean Brain Imaging Center, and president and psychiatrist in chief emeritus at McLean Hospital, having led McLean from 1997 through 2005.

Dr. Cohen was named Psychiatrist of the Year by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts in 2005 and 2010. He has over 400 peer reviewed published manuscripts and book chapters describing the results of his work.

Research Focus:

The Program for Neuropsychiatric Research (PNPR) at McLean Hospital, founded in 2004 by Dr. Bruce Cohen, is a consortium of investigators and clinicians using laboratory, brain imaging, and clinical techniques to increase understanding of the causes of psychotic, mood, and related psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, and use that knowledge to guide the development of improved treatments.

The PNPR initiates and manages collaborative research on patients with psychiatric disorders and healthy control subjects, with techniques including clinical, preclinical, cell biology, physiologic, neurofeedback, genomic, and brain imaging components. A hallmark of Dr. Cohen’s research is combining all of the modalities of study to find convergent evidence on the biological pathways underlying psychiatric disorders. Because psychiatric disorders have complex and interacting causes, this multimodal approach is more powerful than applying single technologies to studying psychiatric disorders.

Clinical phenotyping of participants includes standardized diagnostic schedules and symptom scales. DNA is obtained for genetic studies on all subjects. Many subjects undergo structural, spectroscopic, and functional brain imaging. Similarly, biopsies are obtained from many subjects and skin cells (fibroblasts) are isolated from these specimens, dedifferentiated to iPS lines, and reprogrammed and studied as brain cells and neural and glial lines, in culture.

Particular interests of Dr. Cohen’s group include abnormalities of bioenergetics and mitochondrial function in psychotic, mood, and neurodegenerative disorders and abnormalities of connectivity and myelination, especially in those with schizophrenia. Dr. Cohen and others have discovered consistent and convergent evidence that these mechanisms explain substantial portions of the risk for psychiatric disorders. The findings and the cell lines may be of great use in the pursuit of new targets for novel treatments of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Selected Publications:

Cohen BM. Embracing complexity in psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, and research. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(12):1211-1212.

Sonntag K-C, Ryu W-I, Amirault KM, Healy RA, Siegel AJ, McPhie DL, Forester B, Cohen BM. Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is associated with inherent changes in bioenergetics profiles. Scientific Reports (Nature). 2017;7(1):14038.

McPhie DL, Nehme R, Ravichandran C, Babb SM, Ghosh S, Staskus A, Kalinowski A, Kaur R, Douvaras P, Du F, Ongur D, Fossati V, Eggan K, Cohen BM. Oligodendrocyte differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells derived from subjects with schizophrenias implicate abnormalities in development. Translational Psychiatry. 2018;8(1):230.

PubMed search for Dr. Cohen


Book cover - Living With Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Living With Someone Who’s Living With Bipolar Disorder: A Practical Guide for Family, Friends and Coworkers
by Chelsea Lowe and Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD
(Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010)

Education & Training

  • 1969 SB, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1975 MD, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine
  • 1975 PhD in Molecular Genetics, Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University
  • 1975-1978 Residency in Psychiatry, McLean Hospital
  • 1977-1978 Chief Resident, McLean Hospital
  • 1977-1979 Research Fellow in Psychiatry, Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital
Board Certifications:
  • 1976 Medical License, Board of Registration in Medicine, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • 1976 Diplomate, National Board of Medical Examiners
  • 1979 Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology


Phone: 617.855.3227
Office Address: Belmont campus - Mailman Research Center, Room 303