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Neal Swerdlow, MD, PhD

Neal Swerdlow, MD, PhD

Professor Department of Psychiatry


Contact Information

UC San Diego School of Medicine
San Diego, CA 92093-0804
Office: 619-543-6270
Fax: 619-543-2493

Neal Swerdlow, MD, PhD is Professor of Psychiatry, and Director of the Research Residency Track at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. Dr. Swerdlow graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Amherst College (Neuroscience) in 1981, received his M.D. and PhD (Neuroscience) from UC San Diego in 1986, completed the UC San Diego Psychiatry Residency Program and joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry in 1991. Since that time, he has been continuously NIH-funded, was Director of the Psychiatry Core Clerkship for 17 years, and directed separate clinical programs in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Tourette Syndrome (TS) and Huntington's Disease (HD), before accepting his current role as Director of the Research Residency track. He is also Deputy Director of the NIH-funded Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS).

Research Focus
Dr. Swerdlow's translational research has produced over 225 research reports, more than 300 abstracts and book chapters, and one book. His laboratories conduct studies, in both humans and animal models, focused on the neural circuit and molecular regulation of information processing and its deficiencies in specific brain disorders, including schizophrenia, TS and OCD. His lab has been a training home to numerous undergraduates, graduate students in Neuroscience and Psychology PhD and MD/PhD programs, Research Residents and Post-Doctoral Fellows.

One goal of Dr. Swerdlow's research has been to elucidate the neural regulation of prepulse inhibition (PPI), a measure of sensorimotor gating that is impaired in schizophrenia and other brain disorders. He was the first to report that PPI in rodents was regulated by the nucleus accumbens, and specifically by dopaminergic activation of this region; he later used these findings to develop and validate a model for preclinical antipsychotic screening that remains the gold-standard across industry and the FDA. In humans, Dr. Swerdlow was the first to demonstrate PPI deficits in patients with OCD or HD, and the first to report that PPI is sexually dimorphic. Dr. Swerdlow also published the first report of the startle-potentiating effects of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).

Dr. Swerdlow has held many leadership roles in his field: for 10 years, he Chaired the Tourette Syndrome Association Scientific Advisory Board, was Program Chair for the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), Chaired the Medical Advisory Board for the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) San Diego Chapter for 10 years, Chaired numerous review committees for NIH and private foundations, is Associate Editor for Behavioral Neuroscience, Editor of The Scientific World: Psychiatry, and is on the Editorial Board of Neuropsychopharmacology, Psychopharmacology, and other top journals in his field. Dr. Swerdlow has be a recipient of many prestigious research and service awards, including the ACNP Joel Elkes Award, The APA Kempf Award, the NAMI Judith Silver Award, the TSA Champion of Children's Award, and the ACP Laughlin Fellowship, among many others. In 2010, Dr. Swerdlow was the Commencement Speaker for UC San Diego Graduate Studies. He is very blessed to be married to Dr. Nancy Downs, mother to their 3 wonderful children. As hobbies, Dr. Swerdlow performs as a rock guitarist, and wishes he could surf more.

Swerdlow NR, Weber M, Qu Y, Light GA, Braff DL. Realistic expectations of prepulse inhibition in translational models for schizophrenia research. Psychopharmacology 199:331-88, 2008

Shilling PD, Saint Marie RL, Shoemaker JM, Swerdlow NR. Strain differences in the gating-disruptive effects of apomorphine: Relationship to gene expression in nucleus accumbens signaling pathways. Biological Psychiatry 63: 748-58, 2008.

Swerdlow NR, Krupin AS, Bongiovanni MJ, Shoemaker JM, Goins JC, Hammer Jr. RP. Heritable differences in the dopaminergic regulation of behavior in rats: Relationship to D2-like receptor G protein function. Neuropsychopharmacology 31: 506-513, 2006.

Swerdlow NR, Light GA, Cadenhead KC, Sprock J, Hsieh MH, Braff DL. Startle gating deficits in a large cohort of patients with schizophrenia: Relationship to medications, symptoms, neurocognition and level of function. Arch Gen Psychiatry 63: 1325-1335, 2006.

Swerdlow NR, Geyer MA, Braff DL. Neural circuit regulation of prepulse inhibition of startle in the rat: Current knowledge and future challenges. Psychopharmacology 156: 194-215, 2001.

Swerdlow NR, Martinez ZA, Hanlon FM, Platten A, Farid M, Auerbach P, Braff DL, Geyer MA. Toward understanding the biology of a complex phenotype: Rat strain and substrain differences in the sensorimotor gating-disruptive effects of dopamine agonists. J Neuroscience 20: 4325-4336, 2000.

Swerdlow NR, Paulsen J, Braff DL, Butters N, Geyer MA, Swenson MR. Impaired prepulse inhibition of acoustic and tactile startle response in patients with Huntington’s Disease. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 58: 192-200, 1995.

Swerdlow NR, Braff DL, Taaid N, Geyer MA. Assessing the validity of an animal model of deficient sensorimotor gating in schizophrenic patients. Arch Gen Psychiatry 51:139-154, 1994.

Swerdlow NR, Koob GF. Dopamine, schizophrenia, mania and depression: Toward a unified hypothesis of cortico-striato-pallido-thalamic function. Behav Brain Sci 10, 197-245, 1987.

Swerdlow NR, Braff DL, Geyer MA, Koob GF. Central dopamine hyperactivity in rats mimics abnormal acoustic startle response in schizophrenics. Biol Psychiat 21, 23-33, 1986.

Swerdlow NR, Geyer MA, Vale WW, Koob GF. Corticocotropin releasing factor potentiates acoustic startle in rats: blockade by chlordiazepoxide. Psychopharm 88, 147-152, 1986.

Sorenson CA, Swerdlow NR. The effects of tail pinch on the acoustic startle response in rats. Brain Res 247, 105-113, 1982.

Swerdlow NR. Are we studying and treating schizophrenia correctly? Schizophrenia Research [Epub ahead of print, June 4], 2011. Are we studying and treating schizophrenia correctly?