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Laura Holsen, Ph.D.


Dr. Laura Holsen is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Research Associate in the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital where she sits in the Division of Women's Health, Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology. She received her Ph.D. in Child and Developmental Psychology from the University of Kansas under the mentorship of Dr. Cary Savage, then completed postdoctoral training in affective neuroscience with Dr. Richie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Dr. Holsen's work is focused on developing a model of neural circuitry dysfunction across the continuum of appetite dysregulation disorders (indicative of an overall linear relationship between food motivation region activity and weight outcomes) and gene-hormone-brain relationships contributing to disordered eating.  in more fully understanding the pathophysiology of these disorders. Currently, her projects attempt to answer a broad range of questions: At what point in early development do abnormalities arise in food motivation circuitry, and do they predate other phenotypic markers of anorexia or obesity (under-/over-eating, BMI)? Does the absence of peripheral ghrelin-brain activity relationships in anorexia nervosa indicate ghrelin resistance in this population? Does the mechanism behind this stem from abnormalities at the receptor level in relevant brain regions? What do ghrelin-brain relationships look like in PWS (which is also associated with hyperghrelinemia)? What is the clinical application of the findings to more effective treatment of these disorders?

In her spare time, Dr. Holsen enjoys running, cycling, hiking and camping with her husband and 2 young daughters, and baking.

Selected Publications

  1. Holsen LM, Davidson P, Cerit H, Hye T, Moondra P, Haimovici F, Sogg S, Shikora S, Goldstein JM, Evins AE, Stoeckel LE. Neural predictors of 12-month weight loss outcomes following bariatric surgery. Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 Aug 14. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.190. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Holsen LM, Jackson B. Reward Capacity Predicts Leptin Dynamics During Laboratory-Controlled Eating in Women as a Function of Body Mass Index. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Sep;25(9):1564-1568.
  3. Holsen LM, Goldstein JM. Valuation and cognitive circuitry in anorexia nervosa: disentangling appetite from the effort to obtain a reward. Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Apr 1;77(7):604-6.
  4. Holsen LM, Lawson EA, Christensen K, Klibanski A, Goldstein JM. Abnormal relationships between the neural response to high- and low-calorie foods and endogenous acylated ghrelin in women with active and weight-recovered anorexia nervosa. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Aug 30;223(2):94-103.
  5. Lennerz BS, Alsop DC, Holsen LM, Stern E, Rojas R, Ebbeling CB, Goldstein JM, Ludwig DS. Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 98:641-7.
  6. Holsen LM, Savage CR, Martin LE, Bruce AS, Lepping RJ, Ko E, Brooks WM, Butler MG, Zarcone JR, Goldstein JM. Importance of reward and prefrontal circuitry in hunger and satiety: Prader-Willi syndrome vs. simple obesity. Int J Obesity. 2012;36:638-47.
  7. Holsen LM, Lawson EA, Ko E, Blum J, Makris N, Fazeli, PK, Klibanksi A, Goldstein JM. Food motivation circuitry hypoactivation related to hedonic and non-hedonic aspects of hunger and satiety in women with active and weight-restored anorexia nervosa. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2012;37:322-32.
  8. Holsen LM, Spaeth SB, Lee J-H, Ogden LA, Klibanski A, Whitfield-Gabrieli S, Goldstein JM. Stress response circuitry hypoactivation related to hormonal dysfunction in women with major depression. J Affect Disord. 2011;131:279-87.
  9. Holsen LM, Zarcone JR, Brooks WM, Butler MG, Thompson TI, Ahluwalia JS, Nollen NL, Savage CR. Neural mechanisms underlying hyperphagia in Prader-Willi syndrome. Obesity. 2006;14:1028-37.