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Nicholas Cohen, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Faculty Appointments


Professional Background

Dr. Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology and of Psychiatry. He received his B.A. degree cum laude in Biology from Princeton University in 1959 and his Ph.D. in Biology (supervisor Dr. Johannes Holtfreter) from the University of Rochester in Feb. 1966. He was an NIH Postdoctoral Scholar (supervisor Dr. William H. Hildemann) in the Department Medical Microbiology & Immunology of the UCLA School of Medicine from1965-67. He joined the URMC Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 1967 where he served until his retirement in 2004. He took a sabbatical at the Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel, Switzerland in 1975-76 and at the Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands in 1982-83. In addition to his joint appointment as Professor of Psychiatry (1992-2004), he was Director of the Division of Immunology (1979-2004) and Director of the Graduate Cluster in Immunology, Microbiology & Vaccine Biology (1998-2004)


Dr. Cohen conducted research in two areas of inquiry: evolutionary immunobiology and psychoneuroimmunology. He was involved in each of these "disciplines" from their earliest emergence as areas of investigation.
When in mid 1960s, he published the first detailed analyses of transplantation immunity in urodele amphibians, it was just being recognized that so called primitive vertebrates had bonafide immune systems fully capable of mounting adaptive and innate defensive responses. His subsequent research in amphibian immunology, using primarily a Xenopus model, addressed the phylogeny of thymus function, MHC restriction, cytokines, tolerance, heat shock proteins and immunity, and anti-viral immunity in the context of amphibian declines and extinctions.
In the 1970s, his research with Dr. Robert Ader revealed that Pavlovian conditioning (i.e., learning) could be used to modulate immune responses in rodents. Their early research demonstrating immune responses are shaped by complex interactions among behavior, the nervous system, and the immune systems, formed the cornerstone of the field they named psychoneuroimmunology.



BA | Princeton University

PhD | University of Rochester


2004 - 2004
Norman Cousins Memorial Lecture Awardee of the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society, 2004

2002 - 2002
Burroughs Wellcome Visiting Professor, Florida International University, 2002

1999 - 1999
Immunology Course Instructor– SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine 1999

1998 - 1998
Psychoneuroimmunology Summer Workshop Faculty, May 1998, Univ .Missouri, Kansas City, MO

1997 - 1997
Bidder Lecturer 1997 –Invited-Society for Experimental Biology, Canterbury, England

1994 - 2000
Elected Vice-President for The Americas - International Society for Developmental and Comparative Immunology 1994-1997, 1997-00

1993 - 1998
Elected Member of the Executive Council, Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, 1993- 1994; 1995-1998; Chair, Scientific Affair

1989 - 1998
NIH MERIT grant awardee 1989-1998

1989 - 1989
Visiting Professor: Psychoneuroimmunology Course, 1989, University of Tennessee Med. Center, Memphis, TN

1988 - 1994
Board of Directors, American Type Culture Collection (1988-1994); American Society of Zoologists representative); Member, Member

1982 - 1983
Senior Fulbright Research Scholar and Visiting Professor 1982-1983 Agricultural University (now Wageningen University), The Neth

1979 - 1979
Visiting Professor - Reptilian Immunology Group, Cairo University, Arab Republic of Egypt

1977 - 2003
Editorial Board: Developmental and Comparative Immunology (1977 to 2003); co-founder and Associate Editor: Brain, Behavior and I

Elected Chairperson, Division of Comparative Immunology of the American Society of Zoologists, 1977-1979; Chairperson Elect 1993

1976 - 1980
Member, Immunobiology Study Section of the National Institutes of Health

1974 - 1978
NIH Research Career Development Awardee

1973 - 1977
Elected to the Executive Board, Rochester Chapter of the Society of the Sigma Xi

1971 - 1973
Elected Secretary, Rochester Chapter of the Society of the Sigma Xi

1968 - 1968
Markle Scholar Candidate from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

1966 - 1966
Elected to Full Membership in the Society of the Sigma Xi, 1966 (UCLA Chapter)

1965 - 1965
Recipient of the Donald R. Charles Memorial Award, University of Rochester (Department of Biology)

1959 - 1959
Elected to Associate Membership in the Society of the Sigma Xi, 1959 (Princeton Chapter)

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Journal Articles

Robert J, Cohen N. "The genus Xenopus as a multispecies model for evolutionary and comparative immunobiology of the 21st century." Developmental and comparative immunology.. 2011 Sep; 35(9):916-23. Epub 2011 Jan 28.

Kinney KS, Cohen N. "Neural-immune system interactions in Xenopus." Frontiers in bioscience (Landmark edition).. 2009 Jan 1; 14:112-29. Epub 2009 Jan 01.

Cohen N. "Norman Cousins Lecture. The uses and abuses of psychoneuroimmunology: a global overview." Brain, behavior, and immunity.. 2006 Mar; 20(2):99-112. Epub 2005 Nov 22.