Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby

Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Sarah Hollingsworth “Holly” Lisanby, MD, is an experienced translational researcher and innovator of neuromodulation technologies to study and treat psychiatric disorders. Dr. Lisanby is Director of the Division of Translational Research at NIMH, which funds research on the discovery of preventions, treatments, and cures for mental illness across the lifespan.  She is Founder and Director of the Noninvasive Neuromodulation Unit in the NIMH Intramural Research Program, a multi-disciplinary clinical research program specializing in the innovation of new brain stimulation tools to measure and modulate neuroplasticity to improve mental health.  Dr. Lisanby is former Chair of the Duke Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and JP Gibbons Endowed Professor at Duke University.  She founded and directed both the Duke and the Columbia University Divisions of Brain Stimulation, where she built interdisciplinary research programs specializing in the convergence of Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Engineering. She co-led the NIH BRAIN Initiative Team focused on large-scale neural recording and modulation devices. Dr. Lisanby has been principal investigator on a series of federally funded grants on the development of novel neuromodulation technologies, including the rational design of magnetic and electrical seizure therapies.  Her team pioneered magnetic seizure therapy (MST) as a novel depression treatment from the stages of animal testing, first-in-human, and international clinical trials.  She led a series of studies involving transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), MST, vagus nerve stimulation, and deep brain stimulation. She has received numerous international recognitions, including the Max Hamilton Memorial Prize of the Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum, the Gerald Klerman Award from the National Depression and Manic Depression Association, and the Eva King Killam Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.  She has been a member of the NIMH Board of Scientific Counselors. Dr. Lisanby served on the FDA Neurological Devices Advisory Panel and has held key leadership positions with numerous professional associations, including serving as President for the Association for Convulsive Therapy/International Society of Neurostimulation, and the International Society for Transcranial Stimulation, and Chair of the American Psychiatric Association Task Force to Revise the Practice on ECT. 

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Contact Information


  • M.D. Duke University School of Medicine, 1991

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Østergaard, SD; Speed, MS; Kellner, CH; Mueller, M; McClintock, SM; Husain, MM; Petrides, G; McCall, WV; Lisanby, SH; CORE/PRIDE workgroup,, Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for moderate-severity major depression among the elderly: Data from the pride study., J Affect Disord, vol 274 (2020), pp. 1134-1141 [10.1016/j.jad.2020.05.039] [abs].
  • Martin, DM; Wollny-Huttarsch, D; Nikolin, S; McClintock, SM; Alonzo, A; Lisanby, SH; Loo, CK, Neurocognitive subgroups in major depressive disorder., Neuropsychology, vol 34 no. 6 (2020), pp. 726-734 [10.1037/neu0000626] [abs].
  • Crowell, CA; Davis, SW; Beynel, L; Deng, L; Lakhlani, D; Hilbig, SA; Palmer, H; Brito, A; Peterchev, AV; Luber, B; Lisanby, SH; Appelbaum, LG; Cabeza, R, Older adults benefit from more widespread brain network integration during working memory., Neuroimage, vol 218 (2020) [10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116959] [abs].
  • Pizzagalli, DA; Smoski, M; Ang, Y-S; Whitton, AE; Sanacora, G; Mathew, SJ; Nurnberger, J; Lisanby, SH; Iosifescu, DV; Murrough, JW; Yang, H; Weiner, RD; Calabrese, JR; Goodman, W; Potter, WZ; Krystal, AD, Selective kappa-opioid antagonism ameliorates anhedonic behavior: evidence from the Fast-fail Trial in Mood and Anxiety Spectrum Disorders (FAST-MAS)., Neuropsychopharmacology, vol 45 no. 10 (2020), pp. 1656-1663 [10.1038/s41386-020-0738-4] [abs].
  • Beynel, L; Deng, L; Crowell, CA; Dannhauer, M; Palmer, H; Hilbig, S; Peterchev, AV; Luber, B; Lisanby, SH; Cabeza, R; Appelbaum, LG; Davis, SW, Structural Controllability Predicts Functional Patterns and Brain Stimulation Benefits Associated with Working Memory., Journal of Neuroscience, vol 40 no. 35 (2020), pp. 6770-6778 [10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0531-20.2020] [abs].