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Meet the Researchers

Principal Investigator:     

 Lisa T. Eyler

Dr. Lisa Eyler is a Professor in Residence in the UCSD Department of Psychiatry and a member of the Neuroimaging Core of the San Diego VA Mental Illness, Research and Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC). Her research focuses on the biological basis of neurocognitive functioning in aging, development, and mental illness. Previous studies have used functional imaging to explore the nature of cognitive deficits among older individuals with schizophrenia. Her current projects include examining the brain response correlates of exceptional aging and a study of brain functioning among older persons with bipolar disorder. In addition, she is a co-investigator on a twin MRI study of aging and a functional imaging project aimed at discovering risk factors for autism among very young children.

Research Focus:

Dr. Eyler’s research focuses on understanding and improving cognitive deficits among patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  She is also interested in development and aging and how these interact with mental disorders.  Her work uses structural and functional neuroimaging to explore brain systems involved in thinking and emotion

Clinical Focus:

Dr. Eyler is a licensed clinical psychologist with training in neuropsychological and diagnostic assessment and adult outpatient psychotherapy.


Ashley Sutherland
 Ashley received her M.A. in Psychology from San Diego State University and her B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in biopsychology from the University of California, San Diego. Ashley's research interests include affective disorder neuroimaging, as well as the psychopharmacology, epigenetics, and translational research models of bipolar disorder and other disorders of deficient sensorimotor gating, like Tourette syndrome. 

Nana Kori
Nana received her MPH in Epidemiology from San Diego State University and her B.S. in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan.  Nana is interested in examining how different mental illnesses and traumatic brain injuries impact cognitive and emotional functioning. 

Rudolph Benitez
More information to come about Rudolph!

Visiting Scholar

Ho-Kyoung Yoon 
Ho-Kyoung Yoon received his M.D. from the College of Medicine of Korea University and his Ph.D. in Biological Psychiatry from Korea University. He completed his residency in Korea University Medical Center.  He is currently a Research Scholar  in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego and in the MIRECC program VA San Diego Healthcare System. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Korea University. His research interests include examining the brain and biological systems involved in circadian rhythm disruption in mood disorder.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Chris Kaufmann
Chris Kaufmann received his B.A. in Communication from the University of Southern California and his M.H.S. and Ph.D. in Public Mental Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  He is now a postdoctoral fellow on the NIH T32 Research Fellowship in Geriatric Mental Health at the University of California, San Diego.  Chris has a diverse range of research interests including aging, national trends in the delivery of mental health services, and sleep disorders within the context of mental health conditions.

Ellen Lee
Ellen Lee received her B.A. in Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics at Harvard University and her M.D. from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.  She completed her residency in general psychiatry at the University of Maryland / Sheppard Pratt program and her clinical fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at the VA San Diego Healthcare System / University of California, San Diego program.  She is currently a NIH T32 postdoctoral research fellow in Geriatric Mental Health.  Her research interests include examining the relationships of clinical correlates with biomarkers of accelerated aging, medical comorbidity and end-of-life care in persons with serious mental illness.

Tanya Nguyen 
Tanya Nguyen, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral fellow in the VA San Diego Mental Illness, Research and Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC). She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Neuropsychology and a B.A. in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California. The focus of her research has been to combine knowledge of basic neurobiological functioning and brain-behavior relationships to better understand risk factors for and mechanisms underlying cognitive dysfunction in mental illness. Her current research projects include investigating how immune dysfunction may impact brain systems and contribute to neurocognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. 

Graduate Students

Sheena Dev
Sheena Dev received her B.S. in Cognitive Science from the University of California (UC), San Diego and her M.S. in Clinical Psychology from San Diego State University (SDSU). She is currently a doctoral student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and is specializing in Neuropsychology. Her research interests include using neuropsychological and neuroimaging methods to examine cognitive dysfunction in populations with psychiatric disorders. In particular, she is interested in the role of neurovascular health in age-related changes among individuals with serious mental illness.

Jessica Carrasco
Jessica Carrasco received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish from the University of New Mexico. She is currently a predoctoral student in the SDSU/ UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology (neuropsychology track). Jessica is interested in understanding brain-behavior mechanisms underlying severe mental illness using neuropsychological assessment and imaging techniques. As well as, understanding cultural effects on the assessment, treatment, and level of care offered to those diagnosed with a mental illness in underrepresented populations.


Undergraduate Students

Kristina Lepard
Kristina is currently a senior at the University of California, San Diego working on a B.S. in clinical psychology. She is a research assistant in Dr. Lisa Eyler's lab gaining experience in neuropsychological assessments, clinical data analysis, and fMRI techniques. Kristina is interested in cognitive functioning and neurological differences in people with Bipolar Disorder and the affect of medication load on these factors. In the future, Kristina hopes to continue her education and obtain an MD in psychiatry.

Sharon Liou
Sharon is currently a third year at the University of California, San Diego as a Physiology and Neuroscience major. She works as a research assistant for Dr. Tanya Nguyen's inflammatory imaging study and is gaining experience in running fMRIs, administering neuropsychological assessments, and working with the schizophrenic and veteran population. Her research interests include understanding how cultural and socioeconomic factors may affect the severity and onset of psychological disorders in individuals. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in healthcare, specializing in psychiatry, geriatric medicine, or hospice and palliative medicine. 

Catherine Nguyen
Catherine is currently a third-year at the University of California, San Diego as a Human Biology major and History & Psychology double minor. She is a research assistant for Dr. Tanya Nguyen's Schizophrenia Inflammation Imaging Study and is gaining experience in fMRI techniques, neuropsychological assessments, and clinical data analysis. Her research interests include understanding psychiatric or psychological disorders in a scientific, clinical, and cultural context in order to help individuals manage their condition and succeed despite their mental illness. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine in the fields of psychiatry and/or pediatrics.

Past Lab Members:

Sydney Willis

Sidonie Kilpatrick

Sarah Gough

Shirleen Cheng

Sara Kimmich

Elizabeth Farro

Raeanne Moore

This web site and the content contained herein is not sponsored by or provided on behalf of the VA San Diego Healthcare System or the Veterans Medical Research Foundation