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Kevin M. Spencer, Ph.D.

TitleAssociate Professor of Psychiatry
InstitutionVeterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System
DepartmentPsychiatry
AddressV.A. Medical Center - Boston
Research 151C
150 S Huntington Ave
Jamaica Plain MA 02130
Phone857/364-4630

 Overview 
 overview
My basic interest is in understanding how cognitive processes arise from the dynamics of neural systems. In my research I use human electrophysiology (time-frequency EEG measures and event-related brain potentials [ERPs]) and computational modeling to investigate the neural bases of sensory processing, perception, and executive control in healthy individuals as well as schizophrenia patients. I am interested in schizophrenia because it is characterized by neural circuitry abnormalities that may be manifested in particular brain oscillations, and behaviorally by various kinds of cognitive dysfunction (e.g., hallucinations, thought disorder, attention and working memory deficits). With the recent convergence of evidence concerning the neural circuit mechanisms underlying oscillations and neural circuitry abnormalities in schizophrenia, there is an excellent opportunity to testing hypotheses concerning neural circuitry and cognitive function. Bridging these domains promises to lead to new insights into the neural bases of healthy and disordered cognition and to improved treatments for schizophrenia, as well as other neuropsychiatric disorders.

The work in my laboratory (http://ndl.hms.harvard.edu) on oscillatory brain dynamics in schizophrenia currently focuses on two areas: sensory-evoked and perception-related gamma (30-100 Hz) oscillations. In the area of sensory-evoked oscillations we are delineating the factors underlying the deficits in the early auditory- and visual-evoked gamma oscillations and the auditory steady-state response (ASSR) in schizophrenia. Important questions we are examining include the degree to which the deficits in these oscillations reflect intrinsic circuit abnormalities versus dysfunctional input signals to their cortical sources. For instance, the visual-evoked gamma deficit in schizophrenia might reflect the failure of top-down attentional modulation of visual cortex rather than circuit abnormalities within the visual cortex itself. We are also studying the dynamics underlying these oscillation deficits such as modulation by other ongoing rhythms, and whether these deficits involve interactions with other brain areas using source localization methods.

In the area of perception-related oscillations, we discovered a gamma oscillation that is elicited by illusory visual objects and is phase-locked to individuals’ reaction times, suggesting that it indexes processes related to conscious perception. In schizophrenia patients, this response-locked oscillation (RLO) occurs at a lower frequency than in healthy individuals, and its phase-locking aspect is correlated with the patients’ visual hallucination and thought disorder ratings. A major direction of our research is to determine the functional significance of this oscillation in healthy individuals, and to understand the nature of the reduced frequency and clinical symptom correlations in individuals with schizophrenia.

Finally, we are using computational models of neural circuits to examine how the microcircuit abnormalities found in neuropathological studies of schizophrenia patients may relate to the gamma abnormalities found in EEG studies. With a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of brain oscillations and their dysfunction in schizophrenia, it may be possible to design new therapeutics that target particular neural circuit abnormalities and to assess their efficacy.


 Mentoring 
 current student opportunities
Available: 08/01/13, Expires: 12/31/14

The Neural Dynamics Laboratory at the Jamaica Plain Division of the VA Boston Healthcare System (HMS affiliate) has opportunities available for conducting neurophysiological research on chronic schizophrenia patients. We examine oscillatory brain dynamics in schizophrenia, with the goal of linking EEG abnormalities to neural microcircuits. For more information, please visit http://ndl.hms.harvard.edu.


 Bibliographic 
 selected publications
Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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  1. Oribe N, Hirano Y, Kanba S, Del Re EC, Seidman LJ, Mesholam-Gately R, Spencer KM, McCarley RW, Niznikiewicz MA. Early and late stages of visual processing in individuals in prodromal state and first episode schizophrenia: An ERP study. Schizophr Res. 2013 May; 146(1-3):95-102.
    View in: PubMed
  2. Ford JM, Dierks T, Fisher DJ, Herrmann CS, Hubl D, Kindler J, Koenig T, Mathalon DH, Spencer KM, Strik W, van Lutterveld R. Neurophysiological studies of auditory verbal hallucinations. Schizophr Bull. 2012 Jun; 38(4):715-23.
    View in: PubMed
  3. Mears RP, Spencer KM. Electrophysiological assessment of auditory stimulus-specific plasticity in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Mar 15; 71(6):503-11.
    View in: PubMed
  4. Spencer KM. Baseline gamma power during auditory steady-state stimulation in schizophrenia. Front Hum Neurosci. 2011; 5:190.
    View in: PubMed
  5. Hall MH, Spencer KM, Schulze K, McDonald C, Kalidindi S, Kravariti E, Kane F, Murray RM, Bramon E, Sham P, Rijsdijk F. The genetic and environmental influences of event-related gamma oscillations on bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disord. 2011 May; 13(3):260-71.
    View in: PubMed
  6. Spencer KM, Nestor PG, Valdman O, Niznikiewicz MA, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Enhanced facilitation of spatial attention in schizophrenia. Neuropsychology. 2011 Jan; 25(1):76-85.
    View in: PubMed
  7. Luck SJ, Mathalon DH, O'Donnell BF, Hämäläinen MS, Spencer KM, Javitt DC, Uhlhaas PJ. A roadmap for the development and validation of event-related potential biomarkers in schizophrenia research. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 1; 70(1):28-34.
    View in: PubMed
  8. Arbel Y, Spencer KM, Donchin E. The N400 and the P300 are not all that independent. Psychophysiology. 2011 Jun; 48(6):861-75.
    View in: PubMed
  9. Whitford TJ, Kubicki M, Ghorashi S, Schneiderman JS, Hawley KJ, McCarley RW, Shenton ME, Spencer KM. Predicting inter-hemispheric transfer time from the diffusion properties of the corpus callosum in healthy individuals and schizophrenia patients: a combined ERP and DTI study. Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 1; 54(3):2318-29.
    View in: PubMed
  10. Mulert C, Kirsch V, Pascual-Marqui R, McCarley RW, Spencer KM. Long-range synchrony of ? oscillations and auditory hallucination symptoms in schizophrenia. Int J Psychophysiol. 2011 Jan; 79(1):55-63.
    View in: PubMed
  11. Woo TU, Spencer K, McCarley RW. Gamma oscillation deficits and the onset and early progression of schizophrenia. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2010 Jun; 18(3):173-89.
    View in: PubMed
  12. Spencer KM. The functional consequences of cortical circuit abnormalities on gamma oscillations in schizophrenia: insights from computational modeling. Front Hum Neurosci. 2009; 3:33.
    View in: PubMed
  13. Spencer KM, Niznikiewicz MA, Nestor PG, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Left auditory cortex gamma synchronization and auditory hallucination symptoms in schizophrenia. BMC Neurosci. 2009; 10:85.
    View in: PubMed
  14. Onitsuka T, Spencer KM, Lucia LC, Shenton ME, McCarley RW, Niznikiewicz MA. Abnormal asymmetry of the face n170 repetition effect in male patients with chronic schizophrenia. Brain Imaging Behav. 2009 Sep; 3(3):240-5.
    View in: PubMed
  15. Niznikiewicz MA, Spencer KM, Dickey C, Voglmaier M, Seidman LJ, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Abnormal pitch mismatch negativity in individuals with schizotypal personality disorder. Schizophr Res. 2009 May; 110(1-3):188-93.
    View in: PubMed
  16. Spencer KM, Salisbury DF, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Gamma-band auditory steady-state responses are impaired in first episode psychosis. Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Sep 1; 64(5):369-75.
    View in: PubMed
  17. Spencer KM. Visual gamma oscillations in schizophrenia: implications for understanding neural circuitry abnormalities. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2008 Apr; 39(2):65-8.
    View in: PubMed
  18. Spencer KM, Niznikiewicz MA, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Sensory-evoked gamma oscillations in chronic schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Apr 15; 63(8):744-7.
    View in: PubMed
  19. Javitt DC, Spencer KM, Thaker GK, Winterer G, Hajós M. Neurophysiological biomarkers for drug development in schizophrenia. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2008 Jan; 7(1):68-83.
    View in: PubMed
  20. Nestor PG, Kubicki M, Spencer KM, Niznikiewicz M, McCarley RW, Shenton ME. Attentional networks and cingulum bundle in chronic schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2007 Feb; 90(1-3):308-15.
    View in: PubMed
  21. Onitsuka T, Niznikiewicz MA, Spencer KM, Frumin M, Kuroki N, Lucia LC, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Functional and structural deficits in brain regions subserving face perception in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Mar; 163(3):455-62.
    View in: PubMed
  22. Nestor PG, Valdman O, Niznikiewicz M, Spencer K, McCarley RW, Shenton ME. Word priming in schizophrenia: associational and semantic influences. Schizophr Res. 2006 Feb 28; 82(2-3):139-42.
    View in: PubMed
  23. Spencer KM, Banich MT. Hemispheric biases and the control of visuospatial attention: an ERP study. BMC Neurosci. 2005; 6:51.
    View in: PubMed
  24. Spencer KM, Nestor PG, Perlmutter R, Niznikiewicz MA, Klump MC, Frumin M, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Neural synchrony indexes disordered perception and cognition in schizophrenia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 7; 101(49):17288-93.
    View in: PubMed
  25. Dien J, Spencer KM, Donchin E. Parsing the late positive complex: mental chronometry and the ERP components that inhabit the neighborhood of the P300. Psychophysiology. 2004 Sep; 41(5):665-78.
    View in: PubMed
  26. Dien J, Spencer KM, Donchin E. Localization of the event-related potential novelty response as defined by principal components analysis. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Oct; 17(3):637-50.
    View in: PubMed
  27. Spencer KM, Nestor PG, Niznikiewicz MA, Salisbury DF, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Abnormal neural synchrony in schizophrenia. J Neurosci. 2003 Aug 13; 23(19):7407-11.
    View in: PubMed
  28. Goldstein A, Spencer KM, Donchin E. The influence of stimulus deviance and novelty on the P300 and novelty P3. Psychophysiology. 2002 Nov; 39(6):781-90.
    View in: PubMed
  29. Nestor PG, Han SD, Niznikiewicz M, Salisbury D, Spencer K, Shenton ME, McCarley RW. Semantic disturbance in schizophrenia and its relationship to the cognitive neuroscience of attention. Biol Psychol. 2001 Jul-Aug; 57(1-3):23-46.
    View in: PubMed
  30. Friederici AD, Mecklinger A, Spencer KM, Steinhauer K, Donchin E. Syntactic parsing preferences and their on-line revisions: a spatio-temporal analysis of event-related brain potentials. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001 Apr; 11(2):305-23.
    View in: PubMed
  31. Spencer KM, Dien J, Donchin E. Spatiotemporal analysis of the late ERP responses to deviant stimuli. Psychophysiology. 2001 Mar; 38(2):343-58.
    View in: PubMed
  32. He B, Lian J, Spencer KM, Dien J, Donchin E. A cortical potential imaging analysis of the P300 and novelty P3 components. Hum Brain Mapp. 2001 Feb; 12(2):120-30.
    View in: PubMed
  33. Spencer KM, Vila Abad E, Donchin E. On the search for the neurophysiological manifestation of recollective experience. Psychophysiology. 2000 Jul; 37(4):494-506.
    View in: PubMed
  34. Donchin E, Spencer KM, Wijesinghe R. The mental prosthesis: assessing the speed of a P300-based brain-computer interface. IEEE Trans Rehabil Eng. 2000 Jun; 8(2):174-9.
    View in: PubMed
  35. Spencer KM, Coles MG. The lateralized readiness potential: relationship between human data and response activation in a connectionist model. Psychophysiology. 1999 May; 36(3):364-70.
    View in: PubMed
  36. Spencer KM, Dien J, Donchin E. A componential analysis of the ERP elicited by novel events using a dense electrode array. Psychophysiology. 1999 May; 36(3):409-14.
    View in: PubMed
  37. Spencer KM, Polich J. Poststimulus EEG spectral analysis and P300: attention, task, and probability. Psychophysiology. 1999 Mar; 36(2):220-32.
    View in: PubMed
  38. Donchin E, Spencer KM, Dien J. The varieties of deviant experience: ERP manifestations of deviance processors. Boxtel GJM, Bocker KBE, editors. Brain and Behavior: Past, Present, and Future. 1997; 67-91.
  39. Polich J, Mackie KD, Spencer KM, Ohashi K. The effects of hemispheric differences on feature perturbations. Psychol Res. 1991; 53(4):274-80.
    View in: PubMed
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