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 differences in response inhibition-related neural predictors of PTSD in recent trauma-exposed civilians.

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

Brain dynamics reflecting an intra-network brain state is associated with increased posttraumatic stress symptoms in the early aftermath of trauma.

Sendi M, Fu Z, Harnett N, van Rooij S, Vergara V, Pizzagalli D, Daskalakis N, House S, Beaudoin F, An X, Neylan T, Clifford G, Jovanovic T, Linnstaedt S, Germine L, Bollen K, Rauch S, Haran J, Storrow A, Lewandowski C, Musey P, Hendry P, Sheikh S, Jones C, Punches B, Swor R, Gentile N, Murty V, Hudak L, Pascual J, Seamon M, Harris E, Chang A, Pearson C, Peak D, Merchant R, Domeier R, Rathlev N, O'Neil B, Sergot P, Sanchez L, Bruce S, Sheridan J, Harte S, Kessler R, Koenen K, McLean S, Stevens J, Calhoun V, Ressler K.

Res Sq. 2024 Mar 08. PMID: 38496567

Post-traumatic stress and future substance use outcomes: leveraging antecedent factors to stratify risk.

Garrison-Desany HM, Meyers JL, Linnstaedt SD, House SL, Beaudoin FL, An X, Zeng D, Neylan TC, Clifford GD, Jovanovic T, Germine LT, Bollen KA, 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, Harris E, Pearson C, Peak DA, Domeier RM, Rathlev NK, O'Neil BJ, Sergot P, Sanchez LD, Bruce SE, Joormann J, Harte SE, McLean SA, Koenen KC, Denckla CA.

Front Psychiatry. 2024. 15:1249382. PMID: 38525258