Congratulations to Principal Investigator Michael Koenigs, PhD (Associate Professor of Psychiatry) and Co-Principal Investigator Josh Cisler, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychiatry) for becoming recipients of this year’s Collaborative Health Sciences Grant awards.
The awards of $600,000 each go to three interdisciplinary projects that address diverse health challenges including improving colorectal cancer screening, improving cancer treatment and improving mental healthcare and health outcomes for Wisconsin’s criminal justice-involved population.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Therapy for Wisconsin Prison Inmates
Principal investigator: Michael Koenigs, PhD, Department of Psychiatry
Co-principal investigator: Josh Cisler, PhD, Department of Psychiatry
Collaborators: Linnea Burk, PhD, Department of Psychology and Valerie Maine, PsyD, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital and Wisconsin Department of Corrections
Many of Wisconsin’s prison inmates have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health disorder that develops in people who have experienced emotionally traumatic events, such as neglect or abuse. In fact, rates of PTSD among prison inmates are estimated to be more than 10-fold higher than in the general population. Untreated PTSD is linked to dire outcomes like higher suicide, victimization and recidivism rates. Thus, better treatment is needed in order to improve mental health and ensure better outcomes for inmates. Through a unique partnership between UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, this study will provide group cognitive processing therapy to prison inmates. The study will also evaluate the impact of the therapy, with the goal of improving mental health and outcomes for prison inmates as well as informing public policy related to mental healthcare in prisons.
Principal Investigator Michael Koenigs, PhD
Michael Koenigs, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Neuroscience & Public Policy Program. The goal of Dr. Koenigs’ research is to identify and characterize the brain circuits underlying human emotion, decision-making, and social behavior. A better understanding of the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie deficits in these functions may lead to more effective strategies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illness. The Koenigs lab studies multiple clinical populations with deficits in social and affective function, including neurological patients with prefrontal brain damage, prison inmates with psychopathic personality disorder, and psychiatric outpatients with mood and anxiety disorders. The Koenigs lab employs a variety of measures, including clinical diagnostic interviews, cognitive and behavioral testing, physiological responses (e.g., heart rate, eye movements), and neuroimaging assessments of brain structure and function (e.g., fMRI).
The Koenigs lab seeks to characterize the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying emotion, decision-making, and social behavior through the study of multiple clinical populations with deficits in these domains, including neurological patients with prefrontal brain damage, prison inmates with psychopathic personality disorder, and psychiatric outpatients with mood and anxiety disorders.
In one line of work, the Koenigs lab studies incarcerated criminal offenders. Studies of adult male and female prison inmates examine the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying of a number factors that relate to criminal behavior (e.g., psychopathic and antisocial personality traits, history of childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol abuse). In addition to diagnostic clinical interviews and neuropsychological testing, the lab employs measures of peripheral physiology (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance, eye-tracking) as well as measures of brain structure and function, which is made possible through a unique mobile MRI unit that we deploy to state prisons. In these studies, the Koenigs lab is particularly interested in identifying the neural correlates of deficits in impulse control, emotional responsiveness, and social/moral judgment, and determining how these deficits contribute to criminal behavior.