Research is a central component of the mission of the Department of Psychiatry. The last two decades have seen an unprecedented expansion of our understanding of the biological bases of mental illness. These have included major developments in genomics, transcriptomics, and other disciplines, as made possible by paradigm shifts in technology. Our Department aims to harness the power of these and other disciplines to transform the delivery of care in mental health, heralding the advent of Precision Psychiatry, in which treatments are individually tailored to patients’ genetic makeup and other personal factors. The opening of the 10-story Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building on the 30-acre Phoenix Bioscience Core (PBC) — shared with the College, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, as well as the University of Arizona Colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing, Public Health and the Eller College of Management — has been a major step forward in the College’s efforts to be a destination institution for the most creative and productive scholars and researchers, in which Psychiatry will play a significant role. Behavioral sciences will also be a key ingredient in the College's new Translational Neuroscience Department[hyperlink] and the federally funded Precision Medicine Initiative, sponsored by the University of Arizona and Banner Health.

Below is a sampling of research interests, representative publication topics and professional online links for several members of our UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix Department of Psychiatry faculty.

  • Ayman Fanous, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department, is a psychiatric genetics researcher whose work has been funded by the VA, NIH, and private foundation grants for more than two decades. His lab is interested in identifying genetic variants increasing the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in both large population and family-based samples. In particular, this work has recently focused on understudied populations such as those of African and Latino ancestry. He plays a leading role in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Schizophrenia Workgroup, which includes investigators from dozens of institutions in Europe, North America, and Asia. He is also deeply involved in the VA-Department of Energy Artificial Intelligence initiative, which aims to use AI to improve healthcare outcomes for veterans. This work utilizes deep learning and genome-wide association to identify risk factors for metabolic adverse effects in patients treated with antipsychotics in VA’s landmark Million Veteran Program (MVP).
  • Vladimir Vladimirov, MD, PhD, is a physician-scientist with over two decades of experience in the area of post-mortem brain research in psychiatric disorders. Through his collaboration with the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, Dr. Vladimirov has access to over 4,000 post-mortem brains from patients with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, alcohol, and substance abuse and neurotypical controls. By applying functional genomics approaches in these brains, Dr. Vladimirov’s team aims to uncover the genetic and epigenetic factors underlying the neuropathology of psychiatric disorders. In the past seven years, Dr. Vladimirov has initiated and leading since then an international collaboration with colleagues from the Lieber Institute and Medical University-Sofia, Bulgaria to collect prenatal brains to study the genetic and molecular factors involved in normal and diseased neurodevelopment. Dr. Vladimirov’s research has also focused on developing novel computational approaches for miRNA and gene expression imputation using GWAS and single-cell transcriptomic data. Dr. Vladimirov is a past and current recipient of both private and federal funding and currently his research is supported by three R01s on which Dr. Vladimirov is the PI.
  • Jonathan Lifshitz, PhD, leads a team of investigators through the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and the Phoenix VA Health Care System to investigate the causes, consequences and interventions for traumatic brain injury (TBI). As persistent post-concussive symptoms can deplete cognitive reserve, neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric symptoms emerge as part of the enduring effects of TBI. Dr. Lifshitz is principal investigator on laboratory and clinical development projects, the co-block director for musculoskeletal and nervous system, and serves as a mentor to our medical and graduate students.
  • Eric Reiman, MD, is Executive Director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, CEO of Banner Research, Senior Scientist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium and NIH-sponsored Arizona Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), and a leader of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API). He is also a co-founder and advisor to ALZPath, a start-up company that aims to advance the role of blood tests in the scientific and clinical fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and Chairman of the Board of the Flinn Foundation. A psychiatrist and brain imaging researcher by background, his interests include brain imaging, blood-based biomarkers, APOE and genomics research, the unusually early detection, tracking, and study of Alzheimer’s disease, the accelerated evaluation of Alzheimer’s prevention therapies, and the establishment of new models of research collaboration and clinical care. He is an author of more than 650 publications, a principal investigator of several large NIH,  state, and foundation grants and contracts, a former member of the National Advisory Council on Aging (NIA Council), and a recipient of the Potamkin Prize for his pioneering contributions to the early detection, study, and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. His overarching goal is to find and support the approval and widespread availability of effective Alzheimer’s prevention therapies within the next three years.

  • Pierre Tariot, MD, is Director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and contributing author to over 400 scholarly publications on the topics of diagnosis, therapy and prevention of neuropsychiatric diseases. This work has garnered considerable NIH, philanthropic and industry support. Dr. Tariot launched the Banner Dementia Care Partners program and is featured frequently in the media for his clinical and scientific expertise, including a segment entitled “The Alzheimer’s Laboratory” on CBS News' 60 Minutes.
  • Amelia Gallitano-Mendel, MD, PhD, runs her research lab on the Phoenix Bioscience Core, investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the dual genetic and environmental risks for neuropsychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and mood disorders, which share symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. Recently, she has been conducting a pilot study to test a novel, biologically based diagnostic test for schizophrenia. Dr. Galitano-Mendel is the Principal Investigator for three ongoing research projects and an active lecturer and mentor to our medical students and residents.
  • Ron Hammer, PhD, is Co-Director of our the Clinical Translational Sciences Graduate Program. His laboratory at the Phoenix Bioscience Core focuses on brain mechanisms underlying symptoms of schizophrenia using experimental animal models to assess selective effects of dopamine D2 receptor activity in striatum on cerebral cortical activity in males and females. In situ hybridization histochemistry and in vivo optogenetics are used to assess gonadal steroid hormone-induced alteration of D2 receptor expression and efferent striatal circuitry affecting auditory cortical activity. Dr. Hammer has mentored more than 40 pre-doctoral and seven postdoctoral trainees, published more than 95 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and has published five edited research volumes. He actively teaches and mentors our students and residents and is a stalwart advocate of Psychiatry, encouraging our students to consider a career in the field.
  • Deveroux Ferguson, PhD, leads a College of Medicine – Phoenix based research team studying depression, epigenetics and transcriptomics. Dr. Ferguson recently received a substantial NIH grant to discover novel antidepressants.