Aug 20, 2015
Psychology Student
Hi everyone,

I'm in the beginning stages of looking for graduate programs to apply to next year (for a Fall '17 start.) I am almost exclusively interested in the neuroscience of trauma (especially sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.) I want to do research; I have no desire to provide therapy. I'm interested more in understanding what exactly happens to the brain of a traumatized person than I am in treating their symptoms. Unfortunately, the researcher I work for has informed me that a clinical PhD is all but a requirement to work with the trauma survivor population.

Any suggestions for clinical PhD programs that would allow me to focus on both neuroscience and trauma? Or am I being way too specific?

Thank you for your help!


7+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2010
Psychology Student
a clinical PhD or MD is certainly helpful but not required. Keep in mind that even a research-focused clinical psychology program requires significant amounts of clinical work. I'm about the least clinically-oriented person in my program and it's been a struggle. Although a clinical degree makes it easier to do this kind of research, it can also take up a lot of time that you could otherwise be spending doing research, so it's a trade off. With that said, here are a few people I can think of who do fMRI studies of PTSD or related issues and should be able to take clinical PhD students:

Lisa Shin (Tufts? somewhere in Boston)
Shmuel Lissek (Minnesota)
Martin Paulus (UCSD)
Rich McNally (Harvard)

Unfortunately a lot of people doing this work are in med schools or VAs and usually not able to mentor grad students. But it may be worth checking out those researchers to see if they have collaborations. There is a lot of PTSD research done in Boston, Atlanta, Yale area, Durham (off the top of my head) so checking out schools in those areas may turn up something. good luck and feel free to PM if you have specific questions.

ETA: you will likely need to broaden your focus to find enough schools to apply to. Either looking at methodologies beyond neuroscience (psychophys, specific aspects of behavior/cognition, etc.) or topics beyond trauma (stress, coping, mindfulness, depression, anxiety, etc.) will make finding researchers/programs easier.
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