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The Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research

Helen Scharfman, Ph.D.

Helen Scharfman, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Center for Dementia Research

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Dr. Helen Scharfman completed her doctoral training in the Department of Pharmacology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland and her postdoctoral training in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. She was a Research Associate in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the State University of Stony Brook before starting her own laboratory at Helen Hayes Hospital and Columbia University in 1991. In 2007, she moved her laboratory to the Nathan Kline Institute, and her primary appointment was moved to New York University Grossman School of Medicine, where she is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry, and Physiology & Neuroscience.

Dr. Scharfman’s primary research interests include the mechanisms underlying neuronal excitability and neuronal plasticity, neuroendocrinology, and neurogenesis. The emphasis of the laboratory is to understand the basic mechanisms of normal function in order to better address dysfunction -- i.e., in neurological disorders and psychiatric illness. An area of long-standing interest has been the hippocampus and adjacent brain regions, so there has been an emphasis on learning disorders, as well as epilepsy.

Dr. Scharfman has contributed broadly in basic and translational neuroscience. She has served on numerous advisory boards for national and international organizations, such as the American Epilepsy Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, Citizens United for Research on Epilepsy, and Parents Against Childhood Epilepsy. She has also served as a reviewer for NIH, NSF, and many international funding organizations. She has been continuously R01-funded by NIH since starting her laboratory. She has served on the editorial boards of Epilepsia and Epilepsy Research, and is currently on the editorial boards of Epilepsy and Behavior, Open Access Endocrinology, Frontiers in Neuroscience - Neurogenesis, Brain Structure & Function, and Epilepsy Research & Treatment, and reviews ad hoc for over 40 neuroscience journals. She was named the NYS Department of Health Employee of the Year in 2006 for establishing a research center at Helen Hayes Hospital to promote translational research. She has published over 100 articles and edited or co-edited 5 books.

Select Publications

Hilar Mossy Cells and Dentate Gyrus Function (NIH R01 MH109305):

  • Scharfman HE (2018) Controlling learning and epilepsy together. Science. 359(6377):740-741. PMID: 29449476.
  • Scharfman HE (2016) The enigmatic mossy cells of the dentate gyrus. Nat Rev Neurosci. 17(9):562-575. PMID: 27466143.

Diverse Roles of Adult Dentate Gyrus Neurogenesis (NIH R01 NS081203):

  • Drew LJ, Kheirbek MA, Luna VM, Denny CA, Cloidt MA, Wu MV, Jain S, Scharfman HE, Hen R (2016) Activation of local inhibitory circuits in the dentate gyrus by adult-born neurons. Hippocampus. 26(6):763-78. PMID: 26662922.
  • Iyengar SS, LaFrancois JJ, Friedman D, Drew LJ, Denny CA, Burghardt NS, Wu MV, Hsieh J, Hen R, Scharfman HE (2015) Suppression of adult neurogenesis increases the acute effects of kainic acid. Exp Neurol. 264:135-49. PMID: 25476494.

Hyperexcitability in Alzheimer's Disease (NIH R01 AG055328):

  • Kam K, Duffy AM, Moretto J, LaFrancois JJ, Scharfman HE (2016) Interictal spikes during sleep are an early defect in the Tg2576 mouse model of β-amyloid neuropathology. Sci Rep 6:20119. PMID: 26818394.

BDNF and Hippocampal Excitability (NIH R01 NS037562):

  • Scharfman HE, MacLusky NJ (2014) Differential regulation of BDNF, synaptic plasticity and sprouting in the hippocampal mossy fiber pathway of male and female rats. Neuropharmacology. 76 Pt C:696-708. PMID: 23660230.