Traumatic Stress Studies

Our program provides opportunities to participate in clinical research protocols that will help us better understand the underlying biology of and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In recent decades, our research has included groundbreaking studies on combat veterans, Holocaust survivors and their offspring, and victims of 9/11, sexual assault, and other types of trauma. Our research has enabled us to identify important factors that have led directly to an improved understanding of the syndrome.

Our research program at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center provides specialized clinical services to veteran trauma survivors who may be struggling with a range of symptoms that include depression, anxiety, and PTSD. We have projects at the Icahn School of Medicine as well. 

Our research provides a structured framework in which we can learn from trauma survivors about the impact of traumatic events on psychological and biological aspects of functioning. Ultimately, we have designed our work to help survivors identify maladaptive responses to trauma, and provide strategies for helping to alleviate emotional distress and change troubling behavioral patterns.

Rachel Yehuda, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, is the Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Icahn School of Medicine, and the Mental Health Patient Care Center Director at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center.

Dr. Yehuda has authored more than 300 published papers, chapters, and books in the field of traumatic stress and the neurobiology of PTSD. Her current interests include the study of novel treatments for PTSD, the examination of risk and resilience factors, the study of psychological and biological predictors of treatment response in PTSD, genetic, epigenetic, and molecular biological studies of PTSD and the intergenerational transmission of trauma and PTSD. Her team's research on cortisol and brain function has revolutionized our understanding and treatment of PTSD worldwide.

Dr. Yehuda has received many awards in recognition of her work, including the Curt Richter Prize in Psychoneuroendocrinology and the Laufer Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress. She was also awarded the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (Munich, Germany) 2004 Guest Professorship in Psychiatry and Neuroscience, and the Marcus Tausk Professorship in Leiden University to honor her accomplishments in the endocrinology of PTSD.

Dr. Yehuda received her PhD in psychology and neurochemistry and her MS in biological psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and completed her postdoctoral training in biological psychiatry in the Psychiatry Department at Yale Medical School.

She has an active federally funded clinical and research program that welcomes students and clinicians.

We have conducted research on Holocaust survivors, Holocaust offspring, and combat veterans, with the following accomplished:

  • Identifying important differences in memory and concentration in Holocaust survivors
  • Identifying key distinctions in hormone levels and metabolism in Holocaust survivors, which include changes in metabolism that may be related to the development of hypertension and diabetes
  • Demonstrating that survivors with PTSD have higher levels of noradrenaline and lower levels of cortisol, which implies that people who suffer from PTSD are not sufficiently recovering from their body’s stress response
  • Revealing that PTSD as a result of trauma exposure in parents is a predictor of vulnerability to develop PTSD in their children
  • Proving that adult children of Holocaust survivors have similar hormonal changes as do Holocaust survivors

In combat veterans with PTSD:

  • Identifying important differences in memory and brain function
  • Identifying key changes in cortisol and cortisol metabolism as well as other important genetic and molecular markers of PTSD
  • Showing that combat veterans with PTSD may have different responses to psychotherapy compared to “civilian” trauma survivors

In 9/11 victims:

  • Identifying biological predictors of treatment response

Many of our studies take place in the context of providing treatment, and our programs include a comprehensive evaluation by a trained trauma specialist.

Through our research, we continuously are learning about the effects of trauma and the development of more effective treatments. 

All of our studies are funded with sources including the National Institute of Mental Health, the Veterans Affairs Merit Research Program, the Department of Defense, and private foundations such as Lightfighter Trust and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Studies that are in process have received an extensive review by the Institutional Review Boards of both the Icahn School of Medicine and the James J. Peters Bronx Veterans Affairs.  All participants provide written, informed consent prior to participating in studies.

Participation in our research is always completely voluntary and optional, and there is no cost to participate.

Our current studies include the following:

Past Clinical Studies

Our program’s scope includes clinical services for the treatment of PTSD through the James J Peters Bronx Veterans Medical Center. There, a team of specialists conduct comprehensive evaluations, utilize effective, evidence-based treatments, and recommend veteran education sessions about PTSD. We also counsel on medication options, provide group therapy and information resources, and make referrals to social and support services.

 The following team members comprise the Traumatic Stress Studies Division:

Rachel Yehuda, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at Icahn School of Medicine
Director of the Mental Health Patient Care Center at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Melissa Altman-Stein, PhD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Psychologist in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Anna Augustinos, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Heather Bader, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Brendan Bechard, BS

Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Noelle M.Berger, PhD
Clinical Psychologist in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Linda M. Bierer, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Staff Psychiatrist of the PTSD Clinic at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center
Co-Investigator of ongoing research in the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Mallory Bowers, PhD
Post Doctorate Fellow in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Nikolaos P. Daskalakis, MD, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Researcher in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Frank Desarnaud, PhD
Molecular Biologist in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Eleni Dimoulas, PhD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Psychologist in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Ahmed El-Razi, BA
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Kirklyn Escondo, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Janine D. Flory, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Psychologist in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center
Co-Investigator of several ongoing studies at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Julia Golier, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Director of the Mental Health Patient Care Center at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center
Principal Investigator of two federally-funded studies at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Samuel Krug, PhD
Post Doctorate Fellow in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Yusuf N. Henriques
Administrator of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Lisa Kleupfel, DNP
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Coordinator at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Sophia Lee, BS
Associate Researcher in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Amy Lehrner, PhD
Post Doctorate Fellow in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Bree Loethen, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Iouri Makotkine, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Director of the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Jamie Marino, BS
Associate Researcher in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Marlon McGill, BS
Associate Researcher in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Crystal Mora, BS
Associate Researcher in the Laboratory of Clinical Neuroendocrinology and Neurochemistry at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Jiibril Palmer, MS
Administrator of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Laura Pratchett, PsyD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Psychologist in the PTSD Program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affair Medical Center

Michell Rodriguez, BA
Administrator/ Mental Health Patient Care Center Director Staff Assistant

Matthew Ryba, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division

Ara Srinagesh, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Studies Division