Lauren A. M. Lebois, PhD
Director, Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program
- Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Lauren A. M. Lebois, PhD, is a cognitive neuroscientist who is passionate about understanding how the mind, brain, and body adapt in the aftermath of trauma. She prioritizes translating scientific breakthroughs in accessible, compelling, and clinically relevant ways. Dr. Lebois’ NIMH-funded research program focuses on the neurobiology of dissociation in trauma-spectrum disorders. Her published research examines the therapeutic effect of mindfulness-related treatments, the role of learning, experience, and plasticity in emotion, and the assessment of brain and behavioral correlates of dissociation.
Dr. Lebois is the chair of Scientific Committee of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) and operations co-director of the Initiative for Integrated Trauma Research, Care and Training at McLean. Recently, she was awarded the Alfred Pope Award for Young Investigators from McLean and the Pierre Janet Writing Award and the Morton Prince Award from ISSTD. Dr. Lebois is deeply committed to using her advances in neurobiology, behavior, and treatment to reduce stigma and improve care for individuals living with PTSD and dissociative identity disorder.
Dr. Lebois’ Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program aims to identify and study, in a clinically nuanced manner, the subjective experience, behavior, and biology underlying PTSD and dissociative identity disorder (DID).
A central focus of the lab’s work is to understand trauma-related dissociative symptoms. Dissociative symptoms are experiences of a disruption or discontinuity in someone’s psychological functioning. They span a range of experiences, including detachment from one’s body (depersonalization) and identity alteration in which one’s own thoughts can feel as if they belong to someone else.
The lab uses multiple cognitive behavioral, neuroimaging, psychophysiological, and computational approaches to understand dissociation in its many forms.
Several studies have concentrated on behavioral markers of dissociation in PTSD and DID. Both lab-based and online studies have identified several indicators of dissociation in face- and emotion-perception for individuals with experiences of identity alteration.
Another set of ongoing studies has focused on neurobiological and psychophysiological signatures of dissociation in PTSD and DID. This work replicates findings in the field that suggest depersonalization and derealization in PTSD involve top-down cortical inhibition of limbic structures and over-regulation of affect and arousal.
The lab has also examined dissociation from a brain network perspective—showing that different subtypes of dissociation impact core neurocognitive brain networks in specific ways. Moreover, the lab has used a brain network signature of dissociation to predict levels of dissociation on an individual basis with machine learning techniques.
This avenue of study represents a foundational step toward building a brain “fingerprint” of dissociation that could eventually be used as an assessment tool.
In a pre/post naturalistic trauma-treatment study, the lab is examining the biological markers of recovery from PTSD and dissociation. They hope to identify different trajectories of treatment response—to better understand what is changing in the mind, brain, and body as dissociative symptoms diminish with treatment.
This work may ultimately help to identify biological mechanisms for understanding and treating PTSD with dissociation. Such treatment-related investigation may also allow future engagement with brain circuit-based interventions (e.g., targeted repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation).
Through the collective research efforts of the lab, Dr. Lebois and her colleagues are hopeful that they can help facilitate the development of both novel patient stratification and treatment biomarkers of dissociation that allow dissociation to be measured consistently, objectively, and in a nuanced manner across studies.
Importantly, such biomarkers could be used in the future to both enroll patients for clinical studies and also to track the efficacy of patient response to PTSD or DID treatment.
Our overarching goal of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program is to legitimize patients’ reports of trauma and dissociation through neurobiological understanding, and ultimately, to improve the lives of people living with these experiences.
- Chloe Kaplan, Clinical Research Assistant
- Cori Palermo, MA, Lab Manager
- Xi Pan, LICSW, MPA, Clinical Research Assistant
- Justin T. Baker, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Nikolaos Daskalakis, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Laura Germine, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Nathaniel G. Harnett, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Poornima Kumar, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Milissa Kaufman, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Hesheng Liu, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Lisa Nickerson, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Matthew A. Robinson, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Sherry Winternitz, MD, McLean Hospital
Fenster R, Lebois LAM, Ressler KJ, Suh J. Brain circuit dysfunction in post-traumatic stress disorder: from mouse to man. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 2018;19(9):535-551.
Lebois LAM, Palermo CA, Scheuer LS, Lebois EP, Winternitz SR, Germine L, Kaufman ML. Higher integration scores are associated with facial emotion perception differences in dissociative identity disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2020;123:164-170.
Lebois LAM, Li M, Baker JT, Wolff JD, Wang D, Lambros A, Grinspoon E, Winternitz S, Ren J, Gonenc A, Gruber S, Ressler KJ, Liu H, Kaufman ML. Large-scale brain network architecture changes associated with trauma-related dissociation. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2021;178(2):165-173.
Education & Training
- 2008 BA in Psychology and Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame
- 2010 MA in Cognitive Psychology, Emory University
- 2014 PhD in Cognitive Psychology, Emory University
- 2015-2018 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, McLean Hospital