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August 26, 2016
Columbia’s Gordon Named NIMH Director

Dr. Joshua A. Gordon starts next month as
director of NIMH.
Dr. Joshua A. Gordon starts next month as director of NIMH.

Dr. Joshua A. Gordon has been named director of the National Institute of Mental Health. He is expected to join NIH next month.

“Josh is a visionary psychiatrist and neuroscientist with deep experience in mental health research and practice,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who made the appointment. “He is exceptionally well qualified to lead the NIMH research agenda to improve mental health and treatments for mental illnesses. We’re thrilled to have him join the NIH leadership team.”

Gordon will oversee the lead federal agency for research on mental illnesses. With an annual budget of approximately $1.5 billion, NIMH supports more than 2,000 research grants and contracts at universities and other institutions across the country and overseas. In addition, the NIMH intramural research program supports some 300 scientists working on the NIH campuses.

Gordon joins NIH from New York City, where he serves as associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

In addition to his research, Gordon is an associate director of the Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute Adult Psychiatry Residency Program, where he directs the neuroscience curriculum and administers the research programs for residents.

Joining the Columbia faculty in 2004, Gordon has focused on the analysis of neural activity in mice carrying mutations of relevance to psychiatric disease.

The lab studies genetic models of these diseases from an integrative neuroscience perspective and across multiple levels of analysis, focused on understanding how a given disease mutation leads to a particular behavior. The lab employs a range of neuroscience techniques including neurophysiology, which is the study of activity patterns in the brain, and optogenetics, which is the use of light to control neural activity.

His work has direct relevance to schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and depression and has been funded by grants from NIMH and other research organizations. Gordon maintains a general psychiatric practice, caring for patients who suffer from the illnesses he studies in his lab.

He pursued a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree at the University of California, San Francisco. Medical school coursework in psychiatry and neuroscience convinced him that the greatest need, and greatest promise, for biomedical science was in these areas. During his Ph.D. thesis, Gordon pioneered the methods necessary to study brain plasticity in the mouse visual system. Upon completion of the dual degree program at UCSF, he went to Columbia for his psychiatry residency and research fellowship.

Gordon has been a member of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s depression task force since 2012, where he works collaboratively with this international group to define the neurobiology underlying depression and identify novel treatment targets.

His work has been recognized by several awards, including the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation–NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Rising Star Award from the International Mental Health Research Organization, A.E. Bennett Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry and Daniel H. Efron Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

“I want to recognize and thank NIMH acting director Dr. Bruce Cuthbert for his exemplary leadership of the NIMH over the past several months,” added Collins.

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