I trained in experimental psychology before completing a PhD in psychopharmacology both at the University of York. I came to Oxford in 1998 as a post-doctoral researcher and was appointed as a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2007. My work focuses on the cognitive mechanisms underlying treatment effects in psychiatry. I use a combination of functional neuroimaging, cognitive measures, psychopharmacological challenge tests in humans to find out how, for example, antidepressants work in depression. My work is funded by the Medical Research Council and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre. I serve on the executive committee of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, am an associate editor for Psychological Medicine and am a Council Member for the British Neuroscience Association. I have won prizes from the Society for Biological Psychiatry and the Royal College of Psychiatry for my work on antidepressant drug action.
Research and Teaching
My work currently focuses on the mechanisms underlying fast acting antidepressants such as ketamine. In particular, I aim to develop models to understand and predict the effects of future novel treatments. I am also interested in the interplay between psychological and pharmacological treatments and am working on a project to test whether the effects of antidepressants can be boosted by behavioural activation. Another core project in my lab explores the effects of novel treatments, such as 5HT4 agonists, for the treatment of depression using cognitive neuroscience markers.
Capitão LP, Chapman R, Murphy SE, Harvey CJ, James A, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ. A single dose of fluoxetine reduces neural limbic responses to anger in depressed adolescents Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 21;9(1):30.
Ironside M, Browning M, Ansari TL, Harvey CJ, Sekyi-Djan MN, Bishop SJ, Harmer CJ*, O'Shea J*. Effect of Prefrontal Cortex Stimulation on Regulation of Amygdala Response to Threat in Individuals With Trait Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial.JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 1;76(1):71-78. * equal contribution
Smith J, Browning M, Conen S, Smallman R, Buchbjerg J, Larsen KG, Olsen CK, Christensen SR, Dawson GR, Deakin JF, Hawkins P, Morris R, Goodwin G, Harmer CJ. Vortioxetine reduces BOLD signal during performance of the N-back working memory task: a randomised neuroimaging trial in remitted depressed patients and healthy controls. Mol Psychiatry. 2018 May;23(5):1127-1133.
Scholl J, Kolling N, Nelissen N, Browning M, Rushworth MF, Harmer CJ. Beyond negative valence: 2-week administration of a serotonergic antidepressant enhances both reward and effort learning signals. PLoS Biol. 2017 Feb 16;15(2):e2000756.
Harmer CJ, Duman RS, Cowen PJ. How do antidepressants work? New perspectives for refining future treatment approaches. Lancet Psychiatry. 2017 May;4(5):409-418. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30015-9.