Ryan Bogdan

Washington University in St. Louis

psychweb.wustl.edu/people/ryan-bogdan

What does your research focus on?

My research investigates how genetic variation and environmental experience contribute to individual differences in brain function, behavior, and psychopathology. I am particularly interested in understanding how individual differences in reward and threat processing, as well as stress responsiveness, emerge and play a role in the development of depression and anxiety. The larger goal of my research is to contribute to our etiologic understanding of depression and anxiety.

What drew you to this line of research and why is it exciting to you?

I came to the research by accident after a wrist injury prevented me from continuing my career path as a percussionist. After moving from a music school to a traditional college (Santa Clara University), I took obligatory courses, happened upon a psychology and neuroscience course, and became fascinated with variability in behavior, psychopathology, and its biologic basis. Learning that subtle and common differences in DNA sequence could have profound effects on neural circuits and related behaviors was exciting, and its applicability to understanding risk for psychopathology was readily apparent. In conjunction, insights into how experience gets under the skin to shape biology (e.g., long-term potentiation, epigenetic regulation) provided plausible mechanisms through which the environment could influence behavior and contribute to psychopathology. The importance of this research is amplified by our relatively poor etiologic understanding of psychopathology and treatment to date. At the end of the day, this research is exciting to me because I believe that, in years to come, it may help us to better understand psychopathology on a level that will inform more effective treatment and prevention strategies. More broadly, I have found a career in science to be incredibly rewarding. Learning new things and working collaboratively with passionate people is one of its best perks.

Who were/are your mentors or scientific influences?

I have been fortunate to have many excellent mentors from various aspects of my life. My parents, Mark and Marina Bogdan, as well as my uncle Bill Henrichs, instilled in me a love of hard work and a sense of pride in a job well done. Within the field, Ian Gotlib at Stanford University and Thomas Plante and Eleanor Williamson at Santa Clara University, provided me with the basic skills, training, experience, and opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate. During graduate school, Roy Perlis at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School opened the world of genetics to me by providing basic bench training and resources within his laboratory. My graduate school mentor, Diego Pizzagalli (Harvard University), and postdoctoral mentor, Ahmad Hariri (Duke University), have had the most profound impact on my professional development. I am extremely grateful to Diego for his support and training, and in particular his methodological rigor. I continue to appreciate his innovative approach to science and hope to instill that in my trainees. Ahmad provided an integration of my prior training with modern neurogenetic methods. I greatly admire his enthusiastic approach to science and openness to collaboration. He is supportive, innovative, open, and fun, while being generous with data, feedback, and his knowledge and time.

What’s your future research agenda?

We continue to investigate factors that influence risk for psychopathology and the origins of individual differences. Presently, we are working on beginning double-blind, placebo-controlled pharmacologic challenge studies that will allow for targeted experimental manipulations of neural systems.

What publication are you most proud of?

Bogdan, R., & Pizzagalli, D. A. (2006). Acute stress reduces reward responsiveness: Implications for depression. Biological Psychiatry, 60, 1147–1154.

I am most proud of my first publication in graduate school because Diego Pizzagalli and I designed the study from the ground up after reviewing literature together. This was the first time I was involved in all aspects of an experiment from conceptualization and extensive pilot-testing to running subjects, analyzing the data, and writing the manuscript. Despite not being within the scope of my current research methodologies (e.g., genetics and neuroimaging), it nicely exemplifies my philosophy regarding research, which should ultimately aim to reveal mechanisms underlying psychopathology.

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