Dost Öngür, MD, PhD
Director, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program
Director, LEAP Center
- William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Psychiatry
A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Dr. Öngür has a background in neuroscience and clinical psychiatry. He is currently the chief of the Division of Psychotic Disorders, responsible for three inpatient units, a residential facility, a PACT team, two specialty outpatient clinics, and a community support program. In addition to his clinical work, he receives funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and other sources for his research on the clinical manifestations and neurobiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Dr. Öngür is currently the William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of more than 250 articles on research into the neurobiology of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He has won awards from McLean Hospital, Partners HealthCare (now Mass General Brigham), and Harvard Medical School for his teaching of medical students and residents and for mentoring. He also serves as the editor of JAMA Psychiatry, a premier journal in the field.
The Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program, led by Dr. Öngür, was founded in 2006 and has grown greatly in scope and depth since then. The long-term goal is to develop new treatments for patients in the Division of Psychotic Disorders, including medicines, computer programs, and early intervention strategies.
Dr. Öngür’s research proceeds on two fronts: clinical course and neurobiology. The clinical course of psychotic disorders are variable and difficult to predict. A deeper understanding of the factors that determine long-term outcomes for individual patients would be valuable in tailoring treatments and deploying scarce resources where they are most needed.
To address this problem, Dr. Öngür’s group at the LEAP Center is collaborating with EPINET, an NIMH-funded national learning health care system in early psychosis.
As part of EPINET, the LEAP Center collects standardized data from patients receiving care in Massachusetts early psychosis clinics and conducts analyses of long-term outcomes and treatment response. For this work, the LEAP Center collaborates closely with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
Dr. Öngür’s group also works to understand brain abnormalities in people with psychotic disorders and to develop new treatment approaches to correct these abnormalities. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder commonly involve difficulty integrating thoughts and sensory input. In addition, people with these conditions often have abnormal moods, as in depressive and manic episodes.
At McLean, innovative techniques are enabling researchers to look closely at the basic biology of psychotic disorders. Dr. Öngür and his staff apply an array of tools—including functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), genetics, cell biology, cognition research, and computational modeling—to probe and model the brain systems that go awry in these disorders.
The following is a sampling of the work in Dr. Öngür’s research program.
Hallucinations are a hallmark symptom of psychotic disorders. They cause significant patient distress and are not fully treated with conventional strategies. Dr. Öngür’s group recently discovered that abnormal interactions between left hemisphere language processing centers differentiate individuals with and without auditory hallucinations.
Higher order cognition depends on interactions among large scale cortical brain networks. The group recently discovered that cortical association networks are less segregated in individuals who have a history of psychosis, with notable disruption in a frontoparietal network involved in executive control functions.
The balance between excitation and inhibition is both energy demanding and computationally essential for maintaining the brain’s robust information processing capabilities.
Using MRS, the research program recently found that ATP synthesis in individuals with schizophrenia is 22% lower than in the general population, a striking difference that might contribute to reduced cognitive function under stress. In addition, the program has found abnormalities in glutamate and GABA, the main excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, respectively.
Scientists and the gaming industry have collaborated to design computer games and exercises that enhance cognition. Dr. Öngür and his staff have shown that these programs can improve cognition in people with bipolar disorder. This is a promising avenue for functional gains and improved outcomes in independent living and employment.
Dr, Öngür’s researchers have found subtle indications of brainwave abnormality in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Combined with emerging insights into brain chemistry and brain function, this moves the field closer to a multifaceted understanding of the brain.
- Xi Chen, PhD, Research Associate
- Virginie-Anne Chouinard, MD, Staff Psychiatrist
- Fei Du, PhD, MR Physicist
- Tamar Lamagna, Administrative Manager
- Kathryn Eve Lewandowski, PhD, Director of Clinical Programming
- Lauren V. Moran, MD, Psychiatrist in Charge
- Michael Murphy, MD, PhD, Staff Psychiatrist
- Beverly Peirce, Administrative Secretary
- Steven Prete, Staff Nurse
- Ann K. Shinn, MD, Director of Clinical Research
- Cagri Yuksel, MD, Assistant Neuroscientist
- Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Staci Gruber, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Daphne Holt, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Matcheri S. Keshavan, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School
- Gina Kuperberg, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University
- Scott E. Lukas, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Dara S. Manoach, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Martha Shenton, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, Massachusetts General Hospital
Du F, Cooper AJ, Thida T, Shinn AK, Cohen BM, Öngür D. Myelin and axon abnormalities in schizophrenia measured with magnetic resonance imaging techniques. Biological Psychiatry 2013;74(6):451-7.
Baker JT, Holmes AJ, Masters GA, Yeo BT, Krienen F, Buckner RL, Öngür D. Disruption of cortical association networks in schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder. JAMA Psychiatry 2014;71(2):109-18.
Du F, Cooper AJ, Thida T, Sehovic S, Lukas SE, Cohen BM, Zhang X, Öngür D. In vivo evidence for cerebral bioenergetic abnormalities in schizophrenia measured using 31P magnetization spectroscopy. JAMA Psychiatry 2014;71(1):19-27.
Education & Training
- 1992 BA, Oberlin College
- 1994 MS in Neuroscience, Yale University
- 2000 MD, PhD, Washington University, St. Louis
- 2001-2004 Resident in Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital
- 2000-2001 Medicine Internship, Massachusetts General Hospital/Mt. Auburn Hospital
- 2002 Medical License, Board of Registration in Medicine, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- 2005 Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology