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Ruth Kohen MD

Associate Professor
Phone: (206) 685-1778
Fax: (206) 543-9520

Site: UW Medical Center
Health Sciences Building
1959 NE Pacific Street
Box 356560
Seattle, WA 98195
Link to CV

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Board Certification
American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Geriatric Psychiatry Subspecialty


Many if not most mental illnesses are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In the case of depression, environmental stress plays an important role. Genetic factors can increase the risk for mental illness on their own, or by increasing a person’s vulnerability to his or her environment. In the Kohen lab, we are investigating the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in mental illness in several different ways.

Gene expression studies are a way to find out how parts of the brain use genetic information differently depending on whether a person is healthy or suffers from a psychiatric disorder. We are currently studying how gene expression in the hippocampus differs in subjects with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and healthy controls.

In genetic association studies we are asking the question how genetic factors might modify a person’s risk of suffering from depression if they already have a medical illness. Currently we are studying subjects with stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal disorder. We are also investigating whether genetic variants can influence the risk of behavior problems in depressed youth, and how genetic factors might shape lifestyle choices which could modify stress resilience. We are also interested in finding out how genetics can influence the effectiveness of psychotherapy in depressed patients.

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