Mark Underwood, Ph.D.

Mark Underwood, Ph.D. is Professor of Clinical Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Research Scientist VI in the Division of Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Underwood serves the Conte Center for Suicide Prevention as the Leader of Project 1: “Neurobiology of Suicide: Childhood Adversity, Neuroinflammation and Genomics”.

Research Focus

Dr. Underwood investigates the anatomical and neurochemical underpinnings of suicide behavior and alcohol use disorder. His studies use a translational approach utilizing postmortem human brain. He has been the principal investigator on numerous NIH grants and other awards and has had continuous funding for more than 20 years.

The neurobiology of suicide involves serotonergic and noradrenergic neurons in the brainstem as well as target neurons in the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Underwood uses quantitative morphometry, neuroanatomy and autoradiography to study serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex and regulation of the serotonin biosynthetic enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase in neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus in depressed suicides and alcoholics. He has found in suicide decedents that that there are not fewer, but unexpectedly more, serotonin neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus and fewer neurons in prefrontal cortex regions involved in cognition and executive function.

Select Publications

1. Arango V, Underwood M, Gubbi A, Mann J. Localized alterations in pre- and postsynaptic serotonin binding sites in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex of suicide victims. Brain Research. 1995; 688(1-2):121-133. PMID: 8542298

2. Underwood M, Khaibulina A, Ellis S, Moran A, Rice P, Mann J, Arango V. Morphometry of the dorsal raphe nucleus serotonergic neurons in suicide victims. Biological Psychiatry. 1999 August; 46(4):473-483. PMID: 10459396

3. Underwood M, Kassir S, Bakalian M, Galfalvy H, Mann J, Arango V. Neuron density and serotonin receptor binding in prefrontal cortex in suicide. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011; 15(04):435-447. PMC4167642

4. Underwood MD, Kassir SA, Bakalian MJ, Galfalvy H, Dwork AJ, Mann JJ, Arango V. Serotonin receptors and suicide, major depression, alcohol use disorder and reported early life adversity. Translational Psychiatry. 8:279. PMID: 30552318

5. Arango V, Underwood M, John Mann J. Fewer pigmented neurons in the locus coeruleus of uncomplicated alcoholics. Brain Research. 1994; 650(1):1-8. PMID: 7953660

6. Underwood M, Mann J, Arango V. Morphometry of Dorsal Raphe Nucleus Serotonergic Neurons in Alcoholism. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2007 May; 31(5):837-845. PMID: 17378916

7. Underwood M, Mann J, Huang Y, Arango V. Family History of Alcoholism Is Associated With Lower 5-HT 2A Receptor Binding in the Prefrontal Cortex. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2008 April; 32(4):593-599. PMID: 18241316

8. Bach H, Arango V, Kassir S, Tsaava T, Dwork A, Mann J, Underwood M. Alcoholics Have More Tryptophan Hydroxylase 2 mRNA and Protein in the Dorsal and Median Raphe Nuclei. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2014 July; 38(7):1894-1901. PMC4107109

9. Underwood MD, Arango V. Disconnect between brainstem serotonin neurons and prefrontal cortex serotonin receptors in suicide. Acta Psychopathologica. 4:1-8, 2018. doi:10.4172/2469-6676.100168

10. Youseff MM, Underwood MD, Huang YY, Hsiung SC, Liu Y, Simpson NR, Bakalian MJ, Rosoklija GB, Dwork AJ, Arango V, Mann JJ. Association of BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and brain BDNF levels with major depression and suicide. J. Neuropsychopharmacology. 21:528-538, 2018. PMID: 29432620

11. Underwood MD, Bakalian MJ, Escobar T, Kassir S, Mann JJ, Arango V. Early Life Adversity, but not suicide, is associated with less prefrontal cortex gray matter in adulthood. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. In press.