Kristen K. Ellard, PhD

Position: Assistant Professor
Categories: Faculty

Dr. Ellard is the Director of Dimensional Neuroimaging Research in the Division of Neuropsychiatry and Neuromodulation at MGH. She completed her PhD in clinical psychology at Boston University under the mentorship of Dr. David Barlow, and completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She was co-developer and co-author of the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders, a cognitive behavioral treatment designed to target emotion dysregulation across mood and anxiety disorders, which has now been translated into six languages. Dr. Ellard’s research uses transdiagnostic, dimension-based neuroscience and behavioral approaches to understand the roots of severe cognitive and affective dysregulation in neuropsychiatric disorders, and to find more efficient and effective means to address this dysregulation through combined behavioral and neuromodulatory approaches such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS). She has received several foundation awards and two NIH National Research Service Awards for her research program (F31/F32), including most recently a Fellowship Award through the MGH and Brown University Joint Training Program in Recovery and Restoration of CNS Health and Function (T32) and a Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award (K23) from the NIMH.

Her research program focuses on bridging neuroscience, transdiagnostic functional assessment and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches to improve patient outcomes in neuropsychiatric disorders, and particularly bipolar mood and anxiety disorders. A particular emphasis in her research is the effect of neurocircuit dysfunction associated with emotion regulation on the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairments experienced by individuals suffering these disorders. The overall aim of her research program is to push the field towards a neuro-rehabilitative model of intervention for severe psychopathology, wherein the synergistic combination of behaviorally and dimensionally informed neuromodulation and CBT can serve to improve both the capacity and the ability to successfully regulate bipolar mood and anxiety symptoms, thereby improving wellness and daily functioning. To accomplish this, Dr. Ellard have been systematically investigating 1) the neural bases of emotion and cognitive dysfunction in bipolar mood and anxiety disorders, and the relationship to CBT treatment response; 2) the efficacy of innovative emotion focused CBT interventions in addressing emotion and cognitive dysfunction in bipolar mood and anxiety disorders, and barriers to treatment response; and 3) the development of novel non-invasive neuromodulatory approaches that target and improve neurocircuit function implicated in emotion regulation. The future goals of her research program will be to test the neuro-rehabilitative model, by evaluating whether sequentially combining non-invasive neuromodulation (aimed at rehabilitating emotion regulation related neurocircuitry) with emotion focused CBT (aimed at learning and consolidating adaptive emotion reguation skills) can improve outcomes for severe bipolar mood and anxiety disorders.