Laura Germine, PhD
Technical Director, McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry
Director, Laboratory for Brain and Cognitive Health Technology
- Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Laura Germine, PhD, is the technical director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry, the director of the Laboratory for Brain and Cognitive Health Technology, part of the Advanced Bioinformatics and Computational Discovery Hub, at McLean Hospital, and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Germine received her BA in neurobiology from UC Berkeley, her PhD in experimental psychopathology from Harvard University, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatric genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Germine’s research is oriented around understanding cognitive functioning in health and disease, as well as building technology for studying cognition and behavior using the web and mobile devices. She created one of the first online neuropsychological laboratories in 2005, which later became TestMyBrain.org, a platform that has attracted over 2.3 million research participants.
As director of the Laboratory for Brain and Cognitive Health Technology at McLean Hospital, Dr. Germine investigates individual differences in cognition and mental health.
Her research involves the development of technology for studying cognition and behavior via the web and mobile devices. In 2005, she created TestMyBrain.org, one of the first online neuropsychological laboratories. This platform has attracted more than 2.3 million research participants. Data derived from tests on TestMyBrain have served as the foundation for the development of new measures and to answer novel research questions. This includes validating methods for digital neuropsychology and the quantification of neuropsychological functioning using digital devices.
Germine’s work emphasizes technology development at the intersection of psychometrics and participant engagement. Her lab currently helps develop and validate new assessments in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Aging, the National Cancer Institutes, and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases.
Dr. Germine’s lab also focuses on understanding population risk factors for psychopathology, as well as “domain specificity” in cognition. A central concept in cognitive science, “domain specificity” refers to the degree to which certain cognitive functions are independent of other cognitive functions, from the perspective of mechanisms and/or individual differences.
In addition, Dr. Germine has authored or co-authored more than a dozen papers demonstrating dissociations between individual differences in social and nonsocial cognitive domains, as well as dissociations within social cognition. In one such study, she was able to identify a dissociation in the gene-environment architecture of face recognition and face preferences. This work showed that face identity recognition is based almost entirely on variations in genes, whereas face preferences are shaped mostly by individual environments.
Dr. Germine and her team also focus on how population-level risk factors for psychopathology shape cognitive development. Through her work, she has identified environmental, genetic, and psychometric risk factors for psychopathology that are uniquely and reliably linked with individual differences in social cognitive functioning. For example, using combined genomic and neurocognitive data, her studies showed that schizophrenia polygenic risk is related to poorer social cognition in adults and children as young as seven years. These studies have advanced our understanding of the architecture of social cognition, and how population-level risk factors contribute to psychopathology through their impact on social cognitive processing.
- Elizabeth Grinspoon, Research Data Analyst
- Yi Yi Lu, Program Coordinator
- Maria Emilia Pozo, Laboratory Assistant
- Roger W. Strong, PhD, Research Fellow
- Justin T. Baker, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Naomi Chaytor, PhD, Washington State University
- Krzysztof Gajos, PhD, Harvard University
- Ken Nakayama, PhD, Harvard University
- Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Martin J. Sliwinski, PhD, Pennsylvania State University
- Ipsit Vahia, MD, McLean Hospital
- Jeremy Wilmer, PhD, Wellesley College
Germine L, Reinecke K, Chaytor NS. Digital neuropsychology: challenges and opportunities at the intersection of science and software. Clinical Neuropsychologist 2019;33(2):271-286.
Dodell-Feder D, Ressler KJ, Germine L. Social cognition or social class and culture? On the interpretation of differences in social cognitive performance. Psychological Medicine 2019:1-13.
Rutter LA, Dodell-Feder D, Vahia IV, Forester BP, Ressler KJ, Wilmer JB, Germine L. Emotion sensitivity across the lifespan: mapping clinical risk periods to sensitivity to facial emotion intensity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 2019.
Education & Training
- 2004 BA in Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley
- 2012 PhD in Experimental Psychopathology, Harvard University
- 2012-2016 Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital