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Behavioral Neurology Unit - Division of Intramural Research


Eric Wassermann Image

Eric Wassermann, M.D., Staff Clinician

Dr. Wassermann received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, his M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied behavioral neurophysiology with C.R. Gallistel, and his M.D. from New York Medical College. After a Neurology Residency at the Boston City Hospital, he came to the NINDS as a postdoctoral fellow in the Human Motor Control Section, where he studied the physiology of the motor cortex and the control of voluntary movement. In 1997, he established the Brain Stimulation Unit to extend the same techniques and concepts to investigating the prefrontal cortex and the control of emotion and action. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pfizer Visiting Professorship in psychiatry, two NIH Director's Awards, and the US Public Health Service Outstanding Service Medal. Dr. Wassermann’s clinical interests include behavioral neurology, clinical neurophysiology, and chemical casualty care. He directs the clinical activities of the NINDS Cognitive Neuroscience Section and serves as a Senior Medical Advisor to the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Laboratory Staff

Andrea Brioschi-Guevara, M.A., Special Volunteer
Takaaki Hattori, M.D., Ph.D., Research Fellow
Aysha Keisler, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Kris Knutson, M.A., Psychologist
Jeffrey Lewis, Maj MC USAF, M.D., Ph.D., Visiting Fellow
Lena Polejaeva, B.Sc., Research Assistant
Adam Steel, B.A., Post baccalaureate Fellow
Michael Tierney, M.A., Psychologist
Leonora Wilkinson, Ph.D., Research Fellow

Research Interests

We study the brain systems underlying learning, executive function, and behavioral regulation, using noninvasive stimulation and imaging techniques an innovative behavioral tools. Our main clinical interest is in the physiological and neuroanatomical basis of excess mental and physicial fatigue after brain injury. In particular, we are interested in how lesions of the dopamine reward system and other monoaminergic projections to the forebrain interfere with human behavior. We are also interested in developing new treatments for patients with frontal lobe (executive) disorders and ways of enhancing cognitive functions in healthy individuals.

Using noninvasive brain stimulation techniques and structural and functional MRI, and MR spectroscopy, we are investigating the mechanisms of rewarded behaviors, for example, learning and sustained effort, in the human brain. New thrusts include incorporating near infrared spectroscopy into our work in healthy subjects and patients.

Ongoing clinical studies include the evaluation of warfighters with traumatic brain injury and blast exposure. We are currently conducting Phase IV of the Vietnam Head Injury Study, an in-depth cognitive and lesion anatomy evaluation of several hundred brain injured veterans and combat-exposed controls. Some of our work is sponsored by the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).


Clinical Protocols

  • Detecting a reward signal in the motor cortex  07-N-0063
  • Effects of reward on learning in the motor cortex  09-N-0124
  • Fatigue and Amotivation Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and their Influence on Service Member Community Reintegration  12-N-0030
  • Experienced Breacher Study: Evaluation of the Effects from Chronic Exposure to Low-Level Blast  12-N-0065
  • Warfighter Head Injury Study - a Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Research Evaluation  08-N-0198
  • The Effect of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Learning with Reward in Healthy Human  11-N-0055

Selected Recent Publications

  • Wassermann EM, Zimmermann
    Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Therapeutic promises and scientific gaps, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2012, vol. 133, pp. 98-107. Full Text/Abstract
  • Amyot F, Zimmermann T, Riley J, Kainerstorfer JM, Najafizadeh L, Chernomordik V, Mooshagian E, Krueger F, Wassermann EM
    Normative database of judgment of complexity task with functional near infrared spectroscopy - Application for TBI, Neuroimage, 2012, vol. 60, pp. 879-883. Full Text/Abstract
  • Clark, VP, Coffman, BA, Mayer, AM, Weisend, MP, Lane, TDR, Calhoun, VD, Raybourn, EM, Garcia, C, Wassermann, EM.
    TDCS guided using fMRI significantly accelerates learning to identify concealed objects, NeuroImage, 2012, vol. 59, pp. 117-128. Full Text/Abstract
  • Kapogiannis D, Mooshagian E, Campion P, Grafman J, Zimmermann TJ, Ladt KC, Wassermann EM.
    Reward processing abnormalities in Parkinson's disease, Movement disorders, 2011, vol. 26, pp. 1451-1457. Full Text/Abstract
  • Abe M, Schambra H, Wassermann EM, Luckenbaugh D, Schweighofer D, Cohen LG
    Reward improves long-term retention of a motor memory through induction of offline memory gains, Current Biology, 2011, vol. 21, pp. 557-562. Full Text/Abstract
  • Kapogiannis D, Campion P, Grafman J, Wassermann EM
    Reward-related activity in the human motor cortex, European Journal of Neuroscience, 2008, vol. 27, pp. 1836-1842. Full Text/Abstract
  • Wassermann EM, Epstein CM, Ziemann U, Walsh V, Paus T, LIsanby SH (Eds.)
    The Oxford Handbook of Transcranial Stimulation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008
  • Gilbert DL, Wang Z, Sallee FR, Ridel KR, Merhar S, Zhang J, Lipps TD, White C, Badreldin N, Wassermann EM
    Dopamine transporter genotype influences the physiological response to medication in ADHD, Brain, 2006, vol. 129, pp. 791-808.

Selected Earlier Publications


Contact Information

Behavioral Neurology Unit, NINDS
Building 10, Room 7D43
10 Center Drive, MSC 1440
Bethesda, MD 20892-1430

Telephone: 301-496-0151 (office), 301-496-0151 (laboratory), 301-480-2909 (fax)
Email: wassermanne@ninds.nih.gov