DATE: Friday, June 1, 2012
TIME: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
VENUE: NYU Global Center, Grand Hall
MODERATOR: Mariette DiChristina
PARTICIPANTS: Bruce Cuthbert, Michael B. First, Donald Goff, Helen Blair Simpson

The World Science Festival’s annual salon series offers in-depth conversations with leading scientists, extending the discussion of the Festival’s premiere public programs to graduate students, postdocs, faculty and well-informed members of the general public. This salon explores the revolution in genetics, neuroscience and other means of understanding the biological basis of mental illness that promises a paradigm shift in psychiatry—one that would marry symptoms to their biological roots, refine the classification of mental disorders, and open up the door to personalized psychiatric treatments.

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Editor in Chief, Scientific American

Mariette DiChristina oversees Scientific American, ScientificAmerican.com, Scientific American Mind and all newsstand special editions. She is the eighth person and first female to assume the top post in Scientific American’s 166-year history. Under her leadership, the magazine received a 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. A science journalist for more than 20 years, she first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. She is an advisor for the Citizen Science Alliance. She was named an AAAS Fellow in 2011. She was also the president (in 2009 and 2010) of the 2,500-member National Association of Science Writers. She was an adjunct professor in the graduate Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program at New York University for the several years. DiChristina is a frequent lecturer and has appeared at the New York Academy of Sciences, California Academy of Sciences, 92nd Street Y in New York, Yale University and New York University among many others.

Previously, she spent nearly 14 years at Popular Science in positions culminating as executive editor. Her work in writing and overseeing articles about space topics helped garner that magazine the Space Foundation’s 2001 Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award. In spring 2005 she was Science Writer in Residence at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her chapter on science editing appears in the second edition of A Field Guide for Science Writers. She is former chair of Science Writers in New York (2001 to 2004) and a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. DiChristina was honored by New York’s Italian Heritage and Culture Committee in October 2009 for her contributions as an Italian American to science journalism and education in New York City. In January 2010, she was honored by the National Organization of Italian American Women as one as one of its “Three Wise Women” of 2009.



Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., was named director of the Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR) at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2010. A major component of this position involves coordinating the new Research Domain Criteria project to develop neuroscience-based criteria for studying mental disorders. Cuthbert returned to NIMH following four years as a professor of clinical science at the University of Minnesota. He first came to NIMH in 1998, and was from 1999 to 2005 chief of the Adult Psychopathology and Prevention Research Branch. Cuthbert earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and psychophysiology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and was on the faculty for seventeen years at the University of Florida. He was elected president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in 2004 and is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Cuthbert’s research interests focus on the translation of new psychophysiological models and measures of emotion to mood and anxiety disorders (and their co-morbidity). At Florida he was a senior member of Peter Lang’s research group, conducting basic studies to develop paradigms and measures for studying emotions such as the International Affective Picture System (IAPS, a standardized emotional stimulus set) and the use of the startle probe and event-related potentials as indices of emotional response; and translating the results of this work to clinical studies designed to explicate similarities and differences in psychopathology among different types of anxiety disorders.


Michael B. First, M.D. is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and a research psychiatrist at the Biometrics Department at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. A nationally and internationally recognized expert on psychiatric diagnosis and assessment issues and conducts expert forensic psychiatric evaluations in both criminal and civil matters, Dr. First is currently the chief technical and editorlal consultant on the World Health Organization’ s ICD-11 revision project. He is also an external consultant to the NIHM Research Domain Criteria project. Dr. First was co-principal investigator on the “Future of Psychiatric Diagnosis” conferences that developed research agendas for the upcoming DSM-V and ICD-11 revisions, director of the DSM-V Prelude Project, Editor of the DSM-IV-TR, the Editor of Text and Criteria for DSM-IV, the DSM-IV Primary Care Version, and the APA’s Handbook on Psychiatric Measures. He has co-authored and co-edited a number of books, including: A Research Agenda for DSM-V; Advancing DSM: Dilemmas in Psychiatric Diagnosis; and Clinical Guide to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders. He has trained thousands of clinicians and researchers in diagnostic assessment and differential diagnosis.


Donald Goff is director of the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center. Goff earned his medical degree at the University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, and completed his internship in Internal Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and his residency in Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His research fellowship in Psychopharmacology was completed at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston. Goff established the Schizophrenia Clinical and Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital which he directed from 1995-2012.

Goff has published over 200 articles concerning schizophrenia and related topics. He leads a multidisciplinary research team integrating pharmacology, cognitive behavioral therapy, neuroimaging, and genetics to enhance our understanding of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and to develop new treatments.

Goff is the recipient of the Kempf Award for Mentorship in Biological Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association; the Wayne Fenton, MD, Award for Exceptional Clinical Care; and the Stanley Dean Award for Research in Schizophrenia from the American College of Psychiatrists.

Helen Blair Simpson

Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., is professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The Anxiety Disorders Clinic was founded in 1982 as one of the first research clinics in the world to study the causes of and treatments for anxiety. Today, the clinic studies not only anxiety disorders (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD], panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder) but also related disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and hoarding disorder. Dr. Simpson’s own research program focuses on OCD and related disorders. For the patients of today, she uses clinical trial methodology to examine current treatments and the best way to deliver them. For the patients of tomorrow, she collaborates with brain imagers and basic scientists to study the underlying brain mechanisms of obsessions, compulsions, and anxiety, with the goal of identifying novel targets for treatment development.

Dr. Simpson graduated summa cum laude from Yale College with a BS in biology. She then completed the MD-PhD program at The Rockefeller University/Cornell University Medical College. Her PhD thesis examined the brain pathways underlying learned versus unlearned vocalizations in songbirds. After completing internship and residency training at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center/New York State Psychiatric Institute, she joined the Anxiety Disorders Clinic in 1996 first as a research fellow, then as an independent researcher, and now as its director.