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Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 275-6866

Office: (585) 275-7103

Social Links

Twitter

Research Labs

Faculty Appointments

Biography

Professional Background

I obtained a bachelor's of psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez campus. Where I started to examine the effects of the 2003 Iraq war on children’s resiliency and its effect on their academic performance.

Following my B.A, I participated in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and afterward the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This led to an NIMH Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) to continue my research training. At boh post-baccalaureate programs I explored the biology of anxiety in primates.

Seeking to expand my understanding of anxiety in humans and further develop my skills as a researcher, I pursued a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the NIMH-UCL Graduate Partnership Program mentored by Drs. Christian Grillon and Daniel Pine at the NIMH and Professor Neil Burgess at University College London (UCL). In my research, I explored neural activity involved in environmental discrimination learning with basic task-based fMRI methods. I created and validated a novel VR paradigm to study discrimination learning in healthy adults.

To further expand my previous research efforts to clinically relevant research in the field of PTSD, I was awarded a T32 Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University under the mentorship of Dr. Yuval Neria. Afterwards, I was awarded a K01 grant and promoted to Assistant Professor at the Psychiatry Department. During this time, I acquired knowledge in the assessment and treatment of pathological anxiety and PTSD to understand the neural signatures of PTSD using my VR tasks.

These experiences and projects have solidified my commitment to understanding the neural mechanism of environmental discrimination learning in anxiety and trauma-related disorders. I am dedicated to supporting these communities through my research because (1) of my personal background, (2) the recent disproportional increases in PTSD and anxiety disorder diagnoses, particularly in the military population, and (3) how understudied and underserved these populations remain.

Research

My research program aims to use virtual reality (VR), multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and machine learning to elucidate the psychological and neural signatures of PTSD and anxiety disorders. Particularly, to delineate the contextual aspect of threat and reward learning, discrimination, and monitoring. I am specifically interested in the case where an area within a larger environment becomes associated with threat, such as the area of a neighborhood where an assault or assaults took place, or location on a battlefield where explosions occurred. Patients with PTSD and anxiety disorders often show an overgeneralization or an exaggerated response to threat in larger contexts, even in environments predicting safety. With this research, I plan to identify new brain measures to develop sensitive, personalized, and precise diagnostic and treatment tools for psychopathology.

Credentials

Education

2009
BA | Univ of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez
Psychology

2016
PhD | UK-University College London
Neuroscience

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

08/01/2016 - 09/01/2018
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University, New York, NY. Supervisors: Dr. Yuval Neria. Experience: Studied the neural bases of location-specific contextual fear in patients with PTSD. Investigated neural signatures of PTSD using MRI.

Awards

2020
Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience (BRAINS) Fellow
Sponsor: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in Neuro

2019
American College of Neuropsychopharmachology (ACNP) 2019 Annual Meeting Travel Award Recipient
Sponsor: American College of Neuropsychopharmachology (ACNP

2019
Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship of the 2019 Amygdala Function in Emotion, Cognition and Disease Gordon
Sponsor: Gordon Research Conference

2018
Outstanding Graduate Research Recognition at NIH
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health

2016
T32 Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (NRSA) recipient at Columbia University
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health

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Publications

Journal Articles

6/16/2022
Zilcha-Mano S, Zhu X, Lazarov A, Suarez-Jimenez B, Helpman L, Kim Y, Maitlin C, Neria Y, Rutherford BR. "Structural brain features signaling trauma, PTSD, or resilience? A systematic exploration." Depression and anxiety.. 2022 Jun 16; Epub 2022 Jun 16.

3/15/2022
Sun D, Rakesh G, Clarke-Rubright EK, Haswell CC, Logue M, O'Leary EN, Cotton AS, Xie H, Dennis EL, Jahanshad N, Salminen LE, Thomopoulos SI, Rashid F, Ching CRK, Koch SBJ, Frijling JL, Nawijn L, van Zuiden M, Zhu X, Suarez-Jimenez B, Sierk A, Walter H, Manthey A, Stevens JS, Fani N, van Rooij SJH, Stein M, Bomyea J, Koerte I, Choi K, van de Werff SJA, Vermeiren RRJM, Herzog J, Lebois LAM, Baker JT, Ressler KJ, Olson EA, Straube T, Korgaonkar MS, Andrew E, Zhu Y, Li G, Ipser J, Hudson A, Peverill M, Sambrook K, Gordon E, Baugh L, Forster G, Simons R, Simons J, Magnotta V, Maron-Katz A, du Plessis S, Disner S, Davenport N, Grupe D, Nitschke J, deRoon-Cassini TA, Fitzgerald J, Krystal JH, Levy I, Olff M, Veltman DJ, Wang L, Neria Y, De Bellis MD, Jovanovic T, Daniels JK, Shenton M, van de Wee NJA, Schmahl C, Kaufman ML, Rosso IM, Sponheim SR, Hofmann DB, Bryant RA, Fercho KA, Stein DJ, Mueller SC, Phan L, McLaughlin KA, Davidson RJ, Larson C, May G, Nelson SM, Abdallah CG, Gomaa H, Etkin A, Seedat S, Harpaz-Rotem I, Liberzon I, Wang X, Thompson PM, Morey RA. "Remodeling of the Cortical Structural Connectome in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Results from the ENIGMA-PGC PTSD Consortium." Biological psychiatry. Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging.. 2022 Mar 15; Epub 2022 Mar 15.

11/4/2021
Suarez-Jimenez B, Balderston NL, Bisby JA, Leshin J, Hsiung A, King JA, Pine DS, Burgess N, Grillon C, Ernst M. "Location-dependent threat and associated neural abnormalities in clinical anxiety." Communications biology.. 2021 Nov 4; 4(1):1263. Epub 2021 Nov 04.

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