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Assistant Clinical Investigator

Melissa A Brotman, Ph.D.

Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit

Emotion and Development Branch
Building 15K Room 211
9000 Rockville Pike MSC2670
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: 301-435-6645

Fax: 301-480-4683
brotmanm@mail.nih.gov

Dr. Melissa A. Brotman is an Assistant Clinical Investigator in the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) in the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program (IRP). Dr. Brotman received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy for mood and anxiety disorders. After completing her clinical internship at the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland-Baltimore, she completed post-doctoral training in neuroscience, focusing on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and clinical phenotyping of severe irritability in youth. Currently, her neurodevelopmental, translational research integrates basic and clinical approaches to the study of mood disorders in children and adolescents. Specifically, she uses affective neuroscience techniques to understand the brain-based mechanisms underlying severe irritability in youth, and leverages pathophysiological knowledge to guide the development of novel targeted interventions.


Dr. Brotman is a Member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) and Chair of the ACNP Membership Advisory Task Force. She has received multiple research awards, including the NIMH IRP Seymour S. Kety Memorial Training Award, Society of Biological Psychiatry Travel Award, ACNP Young Investigator Memorial Travel Award, and Career Development Institute Award. She was awarded a 2018 NIH Bench-to-Bedside grant, is a consultant on numerous extramural grants, and is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Affective Disorders. Finally, mentoring is a focal aspect of her career, and her mentorship was recently recognized through the NIMH Outstanding Mentor Award.



The work of the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) aims to advance the field by: (1) using neuroscience to identify treatment targets; and (2) developing innovative and scalable therapies based on target engagement. Irritability is one of the most common reasons that children present for mental health care, however, few treatments are available. Developing mechanism-based interventions is essential given the new DSM-5 diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. NNT utilizes a translational neuroscience model of irritability that articulates core pathophysiological processes (Brotman et al., 2017). Pathological irritability is conceptualized as aberrant responding to frustrative nonreward and threat. This model emerged from imaging studies, demonstrating that the circuitry underlying aberrant frustration and responding involves perturbations in overlapping brain regions (e.g., Brotman et al., 2010).

Dr. Brotman is Principal Investigator on NIMH protocol 15-M-0182: (1) a computer-based treatment, interpretation bias training (IBT); (2) a cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Staff Image
  • Courtney Agorsor, M.A.
    Research Coordinator

  • Julia Brooks, B.S.
    Research Assistant

  • Michal Clayton, B.A.
    Research Assistant

  • Mollie Davis, LCSW-C
    Clinician

  • Ramaris (Rami) German, Ph.D.
    Clinician

  • Hannah Grassie, B.A.
    Research Assistant

  • Simone Haller, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Cheri McNeil, Psy.D.
    Clinician

  • Reut Naim, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Olga Revzina, B.A.
    Research Assistant

  • 1) Kircanski, K., Clayton, M.E., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A (2018)
  • Psychosocial treatment of irritability in youth
  • Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, 5, 129-140
  • 2) Haller, S.P., Kircanski, K., Stoddard, J., White, L.K., Chen, G., Sharif-Askary, B., Zhang, S., Towbin, K.E., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A (2018)
  • Reliability of neural activation and connectivity during implicit face emotion processing in youth
  • Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 31, 67-73, PMID: 29753993 doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2018.03.010
  • 3) Kircanski, K., White, L.K., Tseng, W.-L., Wiggins, J.L., Frank, H., Sequeira, S., Zhang, S., Abend, R., Towbin, K.E., Stringaris, A., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A. (2018)
  • A latent variable approach to differentiating neural mechanisms of irritability and anxiety in youth
  • Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry. 75,631-639, PMID:29625429, doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0468
  • 4) Brotman, M.A., Kircanski, K., Leibenluft, E (2017)
  • Irritability in children and adolescents
  • Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 13,317-341, PMID: 28482689, DOI:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032816-044941
  • 5) Brotman, M.A., Kircanski, K., Stringaris, A., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E (2017)
  • Irritability in youths: A translational model
  • American Journal of Psychiatry, 174, 520-532, PMID: 28103715 DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16070839
  • 6) Tseng, W.-L., Thomas, L.A., Harkins, E., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A (2016)
  • Neural correlates of masked and unmasked face emotion processing in youth with severe mood dysregulation
  • Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 11, 78-88, PMID: 27814457, doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2016.10.006
  • 7) Sasso, K.E., Strunk, D.R., Braun, J.D., DeRubeis, R.J., Brotman, M.A (2015)
  • Identifying moderators of the adherence-outcome relation in cognitive therapy for depression
  • Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 976-984, PMID: 26214542 doi: 10.1037/ccp0000045
  • 8) Brotman, M.A., Deveney, C.M., Thomas, L.A., Hinton, K.E., Yi, J.Y., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft E (2014)
  • Parametric modulation of neural activity during face emotion processing in unaffected youth at familial risk for bipolar disorder
  • Bipolar Disorders, 16, 756-763, PMID: 24617738 doi: 10.1111/bdi.12193
  • 9) Brotman, M.A., Tseng, W.-L., Olsavsky, A.K., Fromm, S.J., Muhrer, E.J., Rutenberg, J.G., Deveney, C.M., Adleman, N.E., Zarate, C.A. Jr., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E (2014)
  • Fronto-limbic-striatal dysfunction in pediatric and adult patients with bipolar disorder: Impact of face emotion and attentional demands
  • Psychological Medicine, 44, 1639-1653, PMID: 23930595 doi: 10.1017/S003329171300202X
  • 10) Hommer, R.E., Meyer, A., Stoddard, J., Connolly, M.E., Mogg, K., Bradley, B.P., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A (2013)
  • Attention bias to threat faces in severe mood dysregulation
  • Depression and Anxiety, 31, 559-565, PMID: 23798350 doi: 10.1002/da.22145
  • 11) Stringaris, A., Goodman, R., Ferdinando, S., Razdan, V., Muhrer, E., Leibenluft, E., Brotman, M.A. (2012)
  • The affective reactivity index: A concise irritability scale for clinical and research settings
  • Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 53, 1109-1117, PMID: 22574736, doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02561.x
  • 12) Brotman, M.A., Rich, B.A., Guyer, A.E., Lunsford, J.R., Horsey, S.E., Reising, M.M., Thomas, L.A., Fromm, S.J., Towbin, K., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E (2010)
  • Amygdala activation during emotion processing of neutral faces in children with severe mood dysregulation versus ADHD or bipolar disorder
  • American Journal of Psychiatry. 167, 61-69, PMID:19917597 PMCID: PMC3075433,  doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09010043
  • 13) Brotman, M.A., Guyer, A.E., Lawson, E.S., Horsey, S.E., Rich, B.A., Dickstein, D.P., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E (2008)
  • Facial emotion labeling deficits in children and adolescents at risk for bipolar disorder
  • American Journal of Psychiatry. 165, 385-389, PMID: 18245180, doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.06122050
  • 14) Brotman, M.A., Kassem, L., Reising, M.M., Guyer, A.E., Dickstein, D.P., Rich, B.A., Towbin, K.E., Pine, D.S., McMahon, F.J., Leibenluft, E (2007)
  • Parental diagnoses in youth with narrow phenotype bipolar disorder or severe mood dysregulation
  • American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 1238-1241, PMID: 17671287
  • 15) Brotman, M.A., Schmajuk, M., Rich, B.A., Dickstein, D.P., Guyer, A.E., Costello, E.J., Egger, H.L., Angold, A., Pine, D.S., Leibenluft, E (2006)
  • Prevalence, clinical correlates, and longitudinal course of severe mood dysregulation in children
  • Biological Psychiatry, 60, 991-997, PMID:17056393 doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.08.042
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