Karestan Koenen
Primary Faculty

Karestan Koenen

Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology



Other Positions

Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Director, Population Mental Health Lab and Concentration


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


Karestan C. Koenen, PhD aims to reduce the population burden of mental disorders through research, training, and advocacy. She is passionate about using science to overcome violence and trauma, which are major preventable causes of health problems globally.

Dr. Koenen directs the Biology of Trauma Initiative at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where she is an Institute Member. Her research focus is three-fold. First, she studies why some people develop PTSD and related mental and physical health problems and why some people are resilient when exposed to similar traumatic events. Second, she investigates how violence, trauma, and PTSD alter long-term physical health and accelerate aging. Third, she aims to expand access to evidence-based mental health treatment for survivors of violence and trauma. To this end, she co-wrote the book, Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Interpersonal Trauma: STAIR Narrative Therapy with Drs. Marylene Cloitre, Lisa Cohen. Kile M Ortigo, and Christie Jackson.

Relevant links:
Biology of Trauma: https://www.broadinstitute.org/biology-trauma-initiative-broad-institute
Book can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Treating-Survivors-Childhood-Interpersonal-Trauma-ebook/dp/B0859BZZDM

Dr. Koenen leads the NIMH-funded Training Program in Psychiatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics (T32) and the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Population Mental Health. She also advises masters and doctoral degree students in the Departments of Epidemiology and Social Behavioral Sciences. In addition, Dr. Koenen leads the Trauma Epidemiology and Population Mental Health Research Group for her students and post-doctoral fellows. The group is primarily a forum for trainees and junior investigators to present and receive feedback on work-in-progress, but also includes presentations on advanced research methodology and career development.

For students who are interested in working within the Koenen lab, please use the following link to express interest. https://forms.gle/MQpU3nuS75k98kfP7

Dr. Koenen advocates for survivors of violence and trauma. In May 2011, Dr. Koenen testified before the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee about the epidemic of sexual violence and victim blaming culture of the Peace Corps. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Women's Media Center's Women Under Siege Project, which investigates how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in conflict. Dr. Koenen also consulted on the documentary, It Happened Here, which examined the epidemic of sexual assault on university campuses. In addition, Dr. Koenen speaks to lay audiences about the latest scientific findings around violence and trauma.

BA, 1990, Economics
Wellesley College

MA, 1996, Developmental Psychology
Columbia University

PhD, 1999, Clinical Psychology
Boston University

Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2002, Psychiatric Epidemiology
Columbia University


Sex-dependent differences in vulnerability to early risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder: results from the AURORA study.

Haering S, Seligowski AV, Linnstaedt SD, Michopoulos V, House SL, Beaudoin FL, An X, Neylan TC, Clifford GD, Germine LT, Rauch SL, Haran JP, Storrow AB, Lewandowski C, Musey PI, Hendry PL, Sheikh S, Jones CW, Punches BE, Swor RA, Gentile NT, Hudak LA, Pascual JL, Seamon MJ, Pearson C, Peak DA, Merchant RC, Domeier RM, Rathlev NK, O'Neil BJ, Sanchez LD, Bruce SE, Harte SE, McLean SA, Kessler RC, Koenen KC, Stevens JS, Powers A.

Psychol Med. 2024 May 22. 1-11. PMID: 38775091

Intensive longitudinal assessment following index trauma to predict development of PTSD using machine learning.

Horwitz A, McCarthy K, House SL, Beaudoin FL, An X, Neylan TC, Clifford GD, Linnstaedt SD, Germine LT, Rauch SL, Haran JP, Storrow AB, Lewandowski C, Musey PI, Hendry PL, Sheikh S, Jones CW, Punches BE, Swor RA, Hudak LA, Pascual JL, Seamon MJ, Harris E, Pearson C, Peak DA, Domeier RM, Rathlev NK, Sergot P, Sanchez LD, Bruce SE, Joormann J, Harte SE, Koenen KC, McLean SA, Sen S.

J Anxiety Disord. 2024 May 05. 104:102876. PMID: 38723405

Genome-wide association analyses identify 95 risk loci and provide insights into the neurobiology of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nievergelt CM, Maihofer AX, Atkinson EG, Chen CY, Choi KW, Coleman JRI, Daskalakis NP, Duncan LE, Polimanti R, Aaronson C, Amstadter AB, Andersen SB, Andreassen OA, Arbisi PA, Ashley-Koch AE, Austin SB, Avdibegoviç E, Babic D, Bacanu SA, Baker DG, Batzler A, Beckham JC, Belangero S, Benjet C, Bergner C, Bierer LM, Biernacka JM, Bierut LJ, Bisson JI, Boks MP, Bolger EA, Brandolino A, Breen G, Bressan RA, Bryant RA, Bustamante AC, Bybjerg-Grauholm J, Bækvad-Hansen M, Børglum AD, Børte S, Cahn L, Calabrese JR, Caldas-de-Almeida JM, Chatzinakos C, Cheema S, Clouston SAP, Colodro-Conde L, Coombes BJ, Cruz-Fuentes CS, Dale AM, Dalvie S, Davis LK, Deckert J, Delahanty DL, Dennis MF, Desarnaud F, DiPietro CP, Disner SG, Docherty AR, Domschke K, Dyb G, Kulenovic AD, Edenberg HJ, Evans A, Fabbri C, Fani N, Farrer LA, Feder A, Feeny NC, Flory JD, Forbes D, Franz CE, Galea S, Garrett ME, Gelaye B, Gelernter J, Geuze E, Gillespie CF, Goleva SB, Gordon SD, Goçi A, Grasser LR, Guindalini C, Haas M, Hagenaars S, Hauser MA, Heath AC, Hemmings SMJ, Hesselbrock V, Hickie IB, Hogan K, Hougaard DM, Huang H, Huckins LM, Hveem K, Jakovljevic M, Javanbakht A, Jenkins GD, Johnson J, Jones I, Jovanovic T, Karstoft KI, Kaufman ML, Kennedy JL, Kessler RC, Khan A, Kimbrel NA, King AP, Koen N, Kotov R, Kranzler HR, Krebs K, Kremen WS, Kuan PF, Lawford BR, Lebois LAM, Lehto K, Levey DF, Lewis C, Liberzon I, Linnstaedt SD, Logue MW, Lori A, Lu Y, Luft BJ, Lupton MK, Luykx JJ, Makotkine I, Maples-Keller JL, Marchese S, Marmar C, Martin NG, Martínez-Levy GA, McAloney K, McFarlane A, McLaughlin KA, McLean SA, Medland SE, Mehta D, Meyers J, Michopoulos V, Mikita EA, Milani L, Milberg W, Miller MW, Morey RA, Morris CP, Mors O, Mortensen PB, Mufford MS, Nelson EC, Nordentoft M, Norman SB, Nugent NR, O'Donnell M, Orcutt HK, Pan PM, Panizzon MS, Pathak GA, Peters ES, Peterson AL, Peverill M, Pietrzak RH, Polusny MA, Porjesz B, Powers A, Qin XJ, Ratanatharathorn A, Risbrough VB, Roberts AL, Rothbaum AO, Rothbaum BO, Roy-Byrne P, Ruggiero KJ, Rung A, Runz H, Rutten BPF, de Viteri SS, Salum GA, Sampson L, Sanchez SE, Santoro M, Seah C, Seedat S, Seng JS, Shabalin A, Sheerin CM, Silove D, Smith AK, Smoller JW, Sponheim SR, Stein DJ, Stensland S, Stevens JS, Sumner JA, Teicher MH, Thompson WK, Tiwari AK, Trapido E, Uddin M, Ursano RJ, Valdimarsdóttir U, Van Hooff M, Vermetten E, Vinkers CH, Voisey J, Wang Y, Wang Z, Waszczuk M, Weber H, Wendt FR, Werge T, Williams MA, Williamson DE, Winsvold BS, Winternitz S, Wolf C, Wolf EJ, Xia Y, Xiong Y, Yehuda R, Young KA, Young RM, Zai CC, Zai GC, Zervas M, Zhao H, Zoellner LA, Zwart JA, deRoon-Cassini T, van Rooij SJH, van den Heuvel LL, Stein MB, Ressler KJ, Koenen KC.

Nat Genet. 2024 May. 56(5):792-808. PMID: 38637617

Sex Differences in Response Inhibition-Related Neural Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Civilians With Recent Trauma.

Borst B, Jovanovic T, House SL, Bruce SE, Harnett NG, Roeckner AR, Ely TD, Lebois LAM, Young D, Beaudoin FL, An X, Neylan TC, Clifford GD, Linnstaedt SD, Germine LT, Bollen KA, Rauch SL, Haran JP, Storrow AB, Lewandowski C, Musey PI, Hendry PL, Sheikh S, Jones CW, Punches BE, Hudak LA, Pascual JL, Seamon MJ, Datner EM, Pearson C, Peak DA, Domeier RM, Rathlev NK, O'Neil BJ, Sergot P, Sanchez LD, Harte SE, Koenen KC, Kessler RC, McLean SA, Ressler KJ, Stevens JS, van Rooij SJH.

Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2024 Mar 22. PMID: 38522649


PTSD’s genetic component validated in new study

A new genetic study of more than 1.2 million people has pinpointed 95 loci, or locations in the genome, linked with risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which exposure to trauma can harm a person’s quality…