Research Activities

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine is a dedicated community of compassionate, expert, inspired, professional clinicians, academicians, staff, and trainees committed to improving the lives of persons affected by psychiatric diseases, concurrent disorders, behavior-related illnesses, and social-environmental conditions impeding mental health. This mission is accomplished through the pursuit of six core values: (1) scholarship and research, (2) education, (3) clinical service, (4) community engagement, (5) bioethical principles, and (6) leadership and administration.

Current contributions by faculty within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine include:

Joseph S. Goveas, MD, Associate Professor

Depressive symptoms, Family History of AD, and Brain Structure and Function: This project will determine the independent and additive contributions of elevated depressive symptoms and family history of late-onset Alzheimer's disease on gray matter volumes, brain function and white matter microstructure in asymptomatic middle-aged adults.

Multimodal Imaging in Depressed Adults at risk for Alzheimer's Disease: This study will identify the functional and structural connectivity correlates in depressed adults at risk for Alzheimer's disease.

Retinal biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease: This is a collaborative project between MCW faculty from Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Ophthalmology that utilizes novel retinal imaging techniques to detect retinal phenotypes that discriminates patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease from cognitive healthy volunteers.

Ultra-high-field Structural MRI in Late-Life Depression and Normal Aging: This collaborative project between MCW faculty from the Departments of Psychiatry, Biophysics and Radiology will utilize ultra-high-field structural brain image datasets obtained on 7T MRI to characterize the medial temporal lobe subregional volumes, and white matter hyperintensities and cerebral microbleeds that will differentiate late-life depression from healthy volunteers.

In addition, Dr. Goveas has contributed to multiple peer-reviewed publications, was selected as one of sixteen promising junior investigators in Alzheimer's disease research at the Charleston Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, was named in Best Doctors in America, is a scholar of the NIMH/Weill Cornell Advanced Research Institute in Geriatric Mental Health, is an invited reviewer for several journals, and is also the reviewer for the Charleston Conference on Alzheimer's Disease pilot grants and Ad Hoc Reviewer for Alzheimer's Association New and Established Investigator Grants program. He is also a member of the Annual Meeting Program and Research Committees for the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Jeffrey A. Kelly, PhD, Professor

The Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine was first established in 1994 and has successfully competed for renewed funding since then. The Center began it's 23rd year in 2016. CAIR adopted a mission statement that emphasized interventions as the Center's thematic focus. Much has changed in the field since that time, and CAIR's research has evolved in response to new needs. However, our thematic focus remains the scientific study of HIV prevention interventions:

"CAIR's mission is to conceptualize, conduct, and scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of new intervention strategies to prevent HIV infection in populations vulnerable to the disease. CAIR's research also develops improved strategies to promote health and alleviate adverse mental health consequences among persons living with HIV. CAIR is committed to disseminating its findings both to the scientific community and to public health providers so they benefit from Center research."

Our approach to achieving this mission is interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and multidimensional. The Center brings together outstanding investigators and draws upon models from the behavioral and social sciences, medicine, public health, mathematics, economics, communication, law, and infectious disease epidemiology to develop innovative HIV prevention methods.

CAIR is the only NIMH-supported HIV behavioral research Center located between the nation's east and west coasts. We are a resource to investigators, institutions, and service providers from across the broad midsection of the country. The Center is also a scientific field leader at both national and international levels.

Within the framework of its thematic mission on intervention research and emerging from intensive Center-wide priority-setting, the following specific aims guide CAIR's research:

(1) To advance the field in the development and evaluation of interventions that will lead to the wide-scale public health implementation of recently-emerging biomedical HIV prevention strategies including behavioral, social, and structural interventions to improve testing uptake and early identification of HIV infection, linkage and long-term retention of PLH to care, and antiretroviral therapy adherence;

(2) To move the field forward by establishing the effectiveness and impact of a new generation of multi-level HIV prevention approaches that combine behavioral, social, structural, and biomedical interventions to achieve the greatest public health impact in disease reduction;

(3) To reduce HIV-related disparities through Center research that is directly focused on populations with greatest HIV incidence and disease burden; and

(4) To serve as a resource that quickly transforms scientific advances into sustainable practice by providers, policymakers, and the public health and private sectors.

CAIR's Core Structure

Administration Core: Strategic planning, administrative oversight. integrated decision-making
Developmental Core: Innovative new and pilot project development, early-stage investigator support, Center seminars, conferences, and internal peer review
Qualitative Core: Qualitative and ethnographic research expertise and resource support to Center studies
Quantitative Core: Methodological, design, data management, and statistical analysis expertise
Intervention and Dissemination Core: Support of intervention trials, dissemination of methods to providers, and implementation science resources
International Core: Resource, logistics, and cross­ cultural research support for international studies
Impact Science Core: Cost-effectiveness, modeling, policy,and effectiveness research expertise

Center leadership includes:

Jeffrey A. Kelly, PhD - Center Director, Interim Director- Intervention and Dissemination Core
Julia Dickson-Gomez. PhD - Center Deputy Director, Director-Qualitative Core
Yuri A. Amirkhanian, PhD - Director­-International Core
Carol L. Galletly, JD, PhD - Director­ Developmental Core
Timothy L. McAuliffe, PhD - Director- Qualitative Core
Steven D. Pinkerton. PhD - Director - Impact Science Core
Karen M. Opgenorth, MS - Director -­ Administration Core

Jennifer M. Knight, MD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Jennifer Knight has a research interest in psychoneuroimmunology and cancer, specifically regarding the neuroimmune mechanisms involved in mediating the relationship between psychosocial factors and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation outcomes. She works in conjunction with the MCW Clinical Cancer Center and the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) to investigate these mechanisms in nationally representative populations of stem cell transplant recipients. With American Cancer Society funding, Dr. Knight and her collaborators Dr. J. Douglas Rizzo (MCW) and Dr. Steve W. Cole (UCLA) identified that stem cell transplant recipients of low socioeconomic status have altered gene transcription profiles previously characterized as the conserved transcriptional response to adversity. This shift in gene expression was also associated with adverse outcomes among transplant recipients. Dr. Knight has received subsequent Leidos Biomed/NCI funding to conduct a prospective randomized controlled trial of propranolol among autologous transplant recipients at MCW to alter this adverse gene expression profile. She also collaborates with Drs. Hillard and Drobyski at MCW investigating the neuropsychiatric effects of inflammation as a function of tocilizumab administration among allogeneic transplant recipients (Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin funding).

Christina Wichman, DO, FAPM, Associate Professor

With generous support from the Gulfshore Foundation, two retrospective research studies have been completed. The first project studied neonatal outcomes of women who were referred to perinatal psychiatry clinic and followed up with services as compared to those who were referred and did not follow-through with psychiatric consultations and control group. The second project studied pregnancy outcomes (including gestational diabetes and hypertension, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as their likelihood of following up with recommended screening and prenatal care) in women who were referred to the perinatal psychiatry clinic as compared to those who were not.

Center for Imaging Research

Current ongoing research focuses on utilizing clinical and multimodal imaging to enhance the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that link depression with Alzheimer’s disease.

Joseph S. Goveas, MD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the Institute of Health and Society at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Goveas is a fellowship-trained Geriatric Psychiatrist and is the Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry fellowship program and clinics at the Medical College. He is a past recipient of a young investigator award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), a pilot grant from the Extendicare Foundation, and a grant from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment to the Medical College. He currently serves as the principal investigator of an Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator Research award and principal investigator on another recently awarded Extendicare Foundation grant.

Dr. Goveas’ research interests are to identify changes in brain neuronal networks that occur in late-life depression, mild cognitive impairment as an approach to increased understanding of the interactions between depression and memory loss in the elderly.

If you are interested in becoming a participant in one of his studies, please contact the study coordinator, Stacy Claesges, at (414) 955-8970 or via email at