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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Seth Davin Norrholm, PhD


       Seth Davin Norrholm, PhD


Dr. Seth Norrholm is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences with an appointment in the Atlanta VA Medical Center. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Human Psychophysiology of Emotion Core. Dr. Norrholm has made outstanding contributions to the field of translational neuroscience, as he has developed a novel paradigm that can be used in patients with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a biomarker of the underlying neurobiological deficits. 

Dr. Norrholm’s training and research experience has made him uniquely qualified for translational research. During his graduate training he focused on animal research models of stress and depression, and a postdoctoral fellow, he continued to build on experiments developed in rodent models to adapt them to a human protocol. Working closely with Dr. Michael Davis, he very carefully developed a paradigm to examine fear extinction in humans. This learning paradigm, based on Pavlovian conditioning, has been theorized as a model for exposure-based therapy in PTSD. Dr. Norrholm was awarded several grants for this research, including awards from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Anxiety (NARSAD), the Emory University Research Committee (URC), and the Department of Defense (DoD).

Dr. Norrholm is a very prolific writer with over 40 peer-reviewed publications, many of which are first or senior author papers in high-impact journals such as Nature Neuroscience and Biological Psychiatry.  As a whole, his work has significantly contributed to the field of translational neuroscience in general, and psychiatry research specifically. Dr. Norrholm’s earlier papers describe the careful methodological development of the human fear extinction paradigm; the more recent papers demonstrate the application of this paradigm to a clinical population. This work has tremendous impact on the field of PTSD research, because it is the first startle-based paradigm to successfully use fear extinction to show deficits in patients with PTSD.

Given Dr. Norrholm’s background in experimental research and his current position working with combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, he is well poised to use these scientific innovations to improve patients’ lives. He continues to develop new paradigms in order to address specific concerns of some veterans—for example, in a recent study Dr. Norrholm tested auditory instead of visual stimuli in order to adapt the tasks for visually impaired service members. As someone who is both an outstanding researcher and committed to helping soldiers with PTSD, he exemplifies the goals of modern medical science—to discover and develop scientifically valid tools that will provide a strong foundation to prevent and treat illness.

       At the completion of this session, the participant will be able to:
       1.  Review review recent translational work using fear conditioning models as objective measures of the fear-related symptoms of
     posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
2.  Explain how impairments in fear learning can underlie PTSD symptoms presented, such as re-experiencing (intrusion).

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