Baylor Psychiatry Research

The Strengths, Opportunities, Milestones, and Actions (SOMA) for Baylor Psychiatry

Research in Baylor’s Menninger Psychiatry Department draws great Strengths from a substantial core of clinical and translational investigators who cut across a wide range of psychiatric disorders and technologies. Over 40 funded investigators are conducting research in most major psychiatric disorders and technologies.

The disorders include: 1. Addictions (Kosten, Newton, DeLaGarza, Salas, Shorter, Domingo, Verrico); 2. Neuropsychiatry (Arciniegas, Jorge, Graham, Little, Steele, Marsh); 3. Child disorders (Calarge, Saxena, Sharp); 4. Affective Disorders (Mathew, Swann, Lijffijt); 5. Anxiety disorders & PTSD (Teng, Graham, Frueh, Dindo, Stanley); 6. Geriatrics (Adler, Kunik); and 7. Personality Disorders (Oldham, Fowler, Sharp).

Technologies include: 1. Neuroimaging (Salas, Little, Wilde); 2. Pharmacogenetics (Nielsen, Graham, Kosten); 3. Psychotherapy (Dindo, Teng, Berrera); and 4. Services research (Stanley, Steele, Curry, Lindsay, Hundt, Madan, Cully, Smith, Kauth). We also have notable strengths from institutional collaborations with other Departments and Centers, including several Centers at Baylor College of Medicine where we have leadership roles. For example, Dr Kosten is co-director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) that supports clinical research across all of Baylor. This resource has been used by both small local projects and large multisite studies in Psychiatry. Two other exciting collaborations by our psychiatric investigations have been with the Microbiome and Metabolomics Centers. Four other institutions sharing strong research collaborations with us at Baylor are: the MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose Psychiatry Department is part of Baylor, The Psychiatry Department at University of Texas at Houston, Rice University, and University of Houston. At UH we collaborate across several key departments and Schools including Psychology (Terri Kosten is vice chair of that department), Chemistry and Engineering, and the Schools of Pharmacy and Social Work. At Rice University we have collaborations in psychology and engineering.

The opportunities include outstanding patient bases for research funding in all the above disorders, as well as developing research programs in Schizophrenia and Child Psychiatry disorders (OCD, ADHD). The VA has particularly strong multi-site studies in genetics of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD and addictions, with those data becoming available in the next couple of years. Houston VA was the main recruiting site for the national study of Functional Activity and Genetics of Schizophrenia, on which Dr. Kosten has been on that study’s Steering Committee since its start over six years ago. We are also the leaders in the VA Million Veteran Genetics study which includes not only psychiatric but other general medical patients. Dr. Kosten also leads the Department of Defense national consortium for the Pharmacotherapy of Substance Abuse and PTSD.

The milestones that we have envisioned are to reach the top 20 in NIH funding in five years, with the support of several endowed chairs for human neuroscience, psychopharmacology of mood disorders, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, and Personality Disorders. Specific growth areas are in Functional Brain Imaging, neuromodulation and OCD in adults and children. 

The actions that are part of our Departmental Strategic Plan include submitting cross-disciplinary grant applications and conducting co-recruitments of junior and mid-level researchers with the Departments of Neuroscience, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Pediatrics. There already exists a strong linkage with Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation through David Arciniegas. We have established a robust mentoring program including post residency fellowships in several areas such as addictions, neuropsychiatry, affective disorders, services research, psychotherapy, pharmacogenetics and neuropsychiatry, which are expanding into our other research areas.

Baylor Clinical Faculty Interests

David Arciniegas, M.D., professor, directs the Beth K. and Stuart C. Yudofsky Division of Neuropsychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and is senior scientist and medical director for Brain Injury Research at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Dr. Arciniegas’ clinical and research activities focus on the evaluation and rehabilitation of persons with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disturbances due to traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions. His research employs standardized cognitive and neuropsychiatric measures, electrophysiologic assessments, and pharmacologic, psychotherapeutic, and rehabilitative interventions. Contact him at

Ali Abbas Asghar-Ali, M.D., associate professor, is the Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship director who is a co-investigator with Dr. Sanjay Mathews on trials involving ketamine and ECT. He has an educational grant through the Veterans Health Administration Office of Rural Affairs for the development of suicide assessment and management training. Contact him at

Terri Barrera, Ph.D., assistant professor, does psychotherapy research in anxiety disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder and works at the MEDVAMC. Contact her at

Chadi Calarge M.D., professor, is actively researching the causes of autism, as well as new and better treatments. Genetic testing, behavior therapy, and the use of telehealth services for families in far-away communities are just a few of the areas we are exploring to provide the latest and best care for those with autism.  He also does general pediatric psychopharmacology for effective and other disorders. Contact him at

Jeffrey Cully, Ph.D., associate professor, interests include mental health services research, the application of cognitive-behavioral therapy in primary care and specialty medical settings, measuring and assessing psychotherapy quality, and psychotherapy training and supervision. Contact him at

Richard De La Garza, II, Ph.D., professor, does medications testing research for cocaine- and methamphetamine addiction with a focus on acetylcholine systems.  He also has collaborative grants for work on smoking in PTSD, as well as the use of virtual reality cue exposure as a treatment for alcoholism. Contact him at

Natalie Hundt, Ph.D., assistant professor, research regarding engaging PTSD patients in care, understanding attrition from psychotherapy, and using peer support to facilitate engagement in care. Contact her at:

Lilian Dindo Ph.D., assistant professor, is focused on developing pragmatic and innovative ways to improve the mental health and functioning of patients suffering from comorbid psychiatric and medical conditions. She currently leads several clinical trials examining the efficacy of a 1-day Acceptance and Commitment Therapy intervention on the functioning and quality of life in medical patients experiencing significant stress. She is also interested in elucidating psychological mediators and moderators of treatment effect. Contact her at

Thomas Ellis, PsyD, ABPP, professor, studies cognitive vulnerabilities associated with suicide risk and seeks to develop interventions specifically designed to address those vulnerabilities in suicidal psychiatric patients. He is currently studying outcomes of suicide-specific interventions and exploring predictors and mediators of changes in suicidality over the course of treatment. Contact him at

Gina Evans-Hudnall, Ph.D., assistant professor, conducts research that improves obesity and related chronic disease self-care among medically complex veterans. She uses cognitive behavioral therapy to facilitate treatment improvements and outcomes. She also has a secondary interest in supervision, motivational interviewing and using culturally appropriate treatment techniques. Contact her at

Chris Fowler, Ph.D., associate professor, treatment outcomes research at Menninger Clinic and longer term inpatient treatment of general psychiatric disorders. Contact him at

Chris Freuh, Ph.D., professor, clinical research in PTSD and treatment outcome after longer term inpatient hospitalization at Menninger Clinic. He is director of research at Menninger Clinic. Contact him at

Wayne Goodman, M.D., professor and chair, specializes in research on the phenomenology, neurobiology and treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related disorders. He also conducts research on the use of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in refractory psychiatric disorders including OCD and Depression. He collaborates with neurosurgeons, neurologists, brain imagers and engineers to develop next generation closed-loop DBS for intractable neuropsychiatric disorders. Contact him at

David Graham, M.D., associate professor, does epidemiological and genetic research examining the overlap between PTSD, mild TBI, and substance use and their influences on community reintegration. He also has a secondary interest in the psychiatric co-morbidity in gastrointestinal disorders. Contact him at

Toi Blakley Harris, M.D., professor, participates in research initiatives that work toward the reduction of mental health disparities within pediatric and adolescent populations. These include educational research projects in the area of mentorship and clinical research targeting pediatric trauma, psychosomatic illness, pediatric and adolescent suicide and improving community partnerships to improve access to care. Contact her at

Ricardo Jorge M.D., professor, does research in neuropsychiatry particularly traumatic brain injury   His clinical and research activities focus on the evaluation and rehabilitation of persons with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disturbances due to traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions. His research employs standardized cognitive and neuropsychiatric measures, electrophysiologic assessments, neuroimaging and pharmacologic, psychotherapeutic, and rehabilitative interventions. Contact him at

Thomas Kosten, M.D., professor, is the Waggoner chair, director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry, and co-director of the Dan L Duncan Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. He conducts research in clinical trials for medications and behavioral therapies for addiction to cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates and for PTSD. He also works with David Nielsen Ph.D. to use genetics for predicting treatment response to medications for neuropsychiatric disorders. Contact him at

Mark Kunik, M.D., MPH., professor, does health services research that focuses on improving the assessment and treatment of mental health problems in persons with dementia and other neurological/medical illnesses. He is also interested in the causes and prevention/treatment of behavioral problems in persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Contact him at

Deborah Little Ph.D., professor, does research focused on the neurobiology of trauma including the development and validation of MRI based markers to characterize, diagnose, and predict recovery from trauma (PTSD, traumatic brain injury) and identify those at greatest risk of sustained impairments and for progression to neurodegenerative disease. Contact her at

Laura Marsh, M.D., professor, Her research interest is in the neuropsychiatric aspects of Parkinson's disease, with a focus on improving characterization of clinical phenomenology and developing methods and approaches to improve the recognition and treatment of psychiatric disturbances in patients with Parkinson's disease and related movement disorders. Contact her at or 713-794-8907.

Sanjay Mathew, M.D., professor, does clinical and translational research that focuses on biomarkers and developing new drug therapies for refractory mood disorders and PTSD. Contact him at or 713-798-5877.

David Nielsen, Ph.D., associate professor, performs pharmacogenetic research aimed at understanding the inter-individual differences in pharmacogenetic components that modulate therapeutic response of treatment of psychostimulant addiction, vaccines for the treatment of addictions, vulnerability to develop cocaine and nicotine addiction, and recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI). He also studies the epigenetics of addictive drugs, cocaine associated decreases in brain white matter integrity, TBI, and maternal behavior. Contact him at

Thomas Newton, M.D., professor, does research aimed at translating findings from preclinical research into human laboratory studies with the goal of developing improved treatments for cocaine and alcohol dependence as well as PTSD.  A particular target is norepinephrine, as this neurotransmitter system is critical for the reinforcing effects of stimulants. Contact him at

John Oldham, M.D., professor and interim chair, personality disorders particularly borderline personality disorder and treatment outcome with inpatient care. Contact him at

Ramiro Salas, Ph.D., associate professor, uses functional brain imaging to study the neuronal circuits that are involved in the processing of reward and disappointment, and how these circuits are changed in addiction, depression and other conditions. His lab is also developing gene expression data-mining techniques to obtain anatomical hypotheses of disease from genetic screenings. Contact him at

Asim Shah, M.D., professor, psychiatry, family and community medicine, He is the chief of psychiatry at Harris health and Ben Taub Hospital. His interests include treatment resistant depression, mood disorders, psychosis and behavior health integration. He is interested in looking at psychopharmacology of medicines, their use in pregnancy and lactation, and use of psychotropics in geriatrics. Contact him at

Daryl Shorter, M.D., assistant Professor, is the Director of the Addiction Psychiatry fellowship program and the Medical Director for the Outpatient Clinical Trials Research (OCTR) group. His research interests include pharmacogenetics and clinical trials of medications to treat addictive disorders. Dr. Shorter also conducts research into strategies for improving addictions training in undergraduate and graduate medical education. Contact him at

Tracey L. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor, conducts psychotherapy research: development and implementation of new treatments; psychotherapy training; psychotherapy processes and outcomes. Contact her at

Melinda Stanley, Ph.D., professor and head, Division of Psychology conducts research on anxiety disorders, primarily with older adults. Most of her studies involve the use of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for older people with anxiety and/or depression. She also is interested in the treatment of anxiety in patients with dementia, the delivery of mental health services in primary care and in the community, and the integration of religion and spirituality into CBT. Contact her at

Lea Steele, Ph.D., Professor, epidemiology and pathobiology  of complex neuroimmune disorders. Primary focus is on health effects of military service in the 1991 Gulf War, including Gulf War Illness. Research includes  large population studies as well as clinical studies evaluating neurological, immune, endocrine, and neuropsychiatric manifestations of this illness and its likely  causes. Works in the Division of Neuropsychiatry. Contact her at

Andrea Stolar, M.D., associate professor, residency director, and medical director of the Veterans Court Programs conducts research on outcomes and process in this jail diversion program. Most of the work to date has been retrospective chart review and survey based. However, in collaboration with others, prospective evaluations of specific clinical interventions in this population are being developed. Contact her at

Alan Swann, M.D., professor, does clinical and translational research focusing on behavior, neurophysiology and biomarkers related to action control and behavioral sensitization. The goal of this work is to develop new diagnostic measures and drug therapies for refractory bipolar disorders, suicidal behavior, alcoholism and PTSD. Contact him at

Ellen Teng, Ph.D., associate professor, conducts transdiagnostic behavioral treatment outcome research for persons with PTSD and comorbid anxiety disorders. Treatments incorporate using cognitive behavioral therapy with a heavy emphasis on exposure and some are delivered in a brief but intensive format over the weekend. Contact her at

Karin E. Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor, is investigating a group psychotherapy meditation intervention for veterans with PTSD. The study is part of a larger, VA multi-site clinical demonstration project examining the utility and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine for patients with PTSD. She is also studying treatment outcome of a cognitive-behavioral group intervention for PTSD-related sleep disturbance. Contact her at

Chris Verrico, Ph.D., assistant professor, is investigating medication treatments for cocaine, cannabis and alcohol use disorders. He is also collaborating with a group at the VA in San Diego that uses extinction learning to assess the efficacy of experimental medications to treat combat-related PTSD with co-occurring alcohol use disorder. Contact him at

Wright Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor, primary research is investigating how effective psychotherapy for PTSD changes the brain. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Mary Newsome in studies of how meditation treatment affects the default mode network in Veterans with PTSD and mTBI. He is also interested in the relationship between interpersonal trust and PTSD treatment success, and continues to utilize a longitudinal database to examine the relationship between personality and long term outcomes in hospitalized Veterans. Contact him at

Laurel Williams, DO., associate professor, is working on two research projects. The first is a joint project with Legacy Clinics, U of Houston (Carla Sharp, Ph.D.), an RCT for MBT vs. TAU for Self-Injury and Suicidality in Adolescents. This study is the second of its kind across the world- and first in the nation. The second is a joint project with Dr. Nabil Guirguis through the HHS system. This project involves the assessment of mental health disorders in parents of children within child psychiatry clinics. Contact her at