Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Laboratory

Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Laboratory

Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Laboratory

Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Laboratory

Research Overview

Our multidisciplinary research focuses on the psychosocial pathways involved in disease progression and recovery in drug addiction and related psychiatric disorders, namely stress and emotion-regulation related psychopathologies. A systems approach transcending brain-periphery-environment factors is used to examine how psychosocial processes relate with neurobiological correlates of behavior. Research is directed to advance understanding of: 1) how biomarkers associated with early adversity play lifelong roles in disease trajectory; 2) what are the impacts of adverse and protective psychosocial factors on brain structure and function in adults; and 3) what are the immune mechanisms that link between psychosocial factors and neurobiological markers. To investigate these questions, neuropsychological and behavioral assessments are used along with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and analyzing peripheral biomarker assays. Through this work we seek to identify targetable mediators linking environment (stress) to psychiatric disorder and to facilitate the development of novel prevention strategies, diagnostic tools, and interventions.

Keren Bachi, PhD, LCSW

Lab location:
1399 Park avenue
New York, NY, 10029

Current Grants

NIDA K23-DA045928-02 Patient-Oriented Career Development Award, 03/15/2018 – 02/28/2023, Mentalizing deficits in cocaine addiction, associations with immune dysregulation and childhood maltreatment. Role: Principal Investigator

Drug addicted individuals frequently experience social stress (e.g., childhood maltreatment) which may impact interpersonal functioning, exacerbate illness risk (e.g., craving, relapse), and shape neural and physiological responses to stress. This study is aimed at characterizing these complex relationships by: (I) characterizing the behavioral and neural correlates of deficits in mentalizing in cocaine addicted individuals vs. matched healthy controls, using two well-validated functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigms that robustly activate the mentalizing network and characterization of Social Navigation; (II) comparing inflammation between the two study groups, using an immune-blood-profile previously associated with cocaine use, but here examined for the first time vis-à-vis mentalizing and childhood maltreatment; and (III) discerning whether inflammation markers mediate the relationships between childhood trauma with altered neural engagement/behavior during a novel mentalizing task. A better understanding of social cognitive impairments in cocaine addicted individuals, and particularly how they may be related to psychophysiological and social-environmental elements, may inform more effective treatment strategies, improving quality of life, and reducing societal burden.

Social Navigation in Cocaine Addiction in collaboration with Daniela Schiller, Ph.D.

We have added to the K23 protocol an fMRI task that depicts a Map for Social Navigation for a comprehensive assessment of other social-cognitive factors that are beyond mentalizing. Social interactions can be framed by domains of power (being submissive or authoritative) and affiliation (sharing private information or intimacy), guided by episodic memory of prior social interactions. Revealing neural substrates of social interactions is complex because it is a dynamic phenomenon that requires consideration of ongoing changes in responses to social encounters. A well-validated and naturalistic fMRI paradigm, the Social Navigation task, has resulted in a two-dimensional geometric model of social interactions as shown by a ‘social space’ framed by power and affiliation in healthy individuals. Hippocampal brain activity predicted changes in subjective affiliation and power between people and fictional characters in a virtual role-playing game.

NIDA UG3/UH3 Clinical Trial. Principal Investigator: Yasmin Hurd, PhD; Co-Investigator: Keren Bachi, PhD, LSCW 

Development of Medications to Prevent and Treat Opioid Use Disorders and Overdose. Cannabidiol in the treatment of opioid use disorder: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study of pharmacological and long-term effects of Cannabidiol administration on opioid craving, relapse, and psychosocial functioning in individuals with opioid use disorder.

Lab Members

Keren Bachi, Ph.D.,LCSW 
Principal Investigator



A rich clinical background set the stage for Dr. Bachi’s scientific path. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than a decade of psychotherapy experience treating adults with substance use disorders and individuals with early adversity with other diagnoses (e.g., PTSD; psychosis), and providing mentorship to graduate students and clinicians in a range of clinical and managerial roles. Following the receipt of her doctoral degree in 2014 at the Silberman School of Social Work, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Dr. Bachi was the first Social Work Postdoctoral Fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). She completed a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) T32 postdoctoral fellowship in an interdisciplinary training linking neuroscience and systems therapeutics in drug abuse research, training with the Neuroimaging of Addiction and Related Conditions Research Program. In 2018 Dr. Bachi was appointed Assistant Professor at the Departments of Psychiatry (primary) and Environmental Medicine and Public Health (secondary) at ISMMS to facilitate the bridging between research and the clinic at the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai (AIMS), with emphasis on psychosocial determinants in psychiatric disorders. She received a NIDA K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (5K23DA045928-02, Project Period: 03/15/2018 – 02/28/2023, IRB Approved Protocol: 18-00820) to examine the behavioral and neural correlates of mentalizing deficits in cocaine addiction, associations with immune dysregulation and childhood maltreatment.

Vyoma Sahani, B.A.
Clinical Research Coordinator


Vyoma received her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavior from Barnard College, Columbia University in 2019. She has been working with Dr. Bachi since June 2018, in particular on a project analyzing mentalizing capacities in individuals with cocaine use disorder. She previously received funding from Barnard’s Summer Research Institute to assist with project development which eventually lay the groundwork for her senior thesis. She presented a poster in summer 2019 on this topic. In the lab, she assists with participant recruitment, data collection and analysis.

Tien Tong, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow


Tien received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa in 2021. Her Ph.D. research focused on studying groups with significant risks of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), particularly, alcohol binge drinkers and children with a family history of AUD. Tien is excited to join the Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction lab to extend her previous work in multi-modal neuroimaging to study the neural, affective, and cognitive abnormalities in substance use disorder. More broadly, Tien is interested in network neuroscience, machine learning, open science, and data science. 


Julie Byrnes, B.A.
MD/MPH student


Julie is a first year MD/MPH student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai expected to graduate in June 2023. After graduating from Vassar College in 2017, Julie conducted a project via the Watson fellowship in which she looked at how different countries approach addiction treatment, and conducted narrative medicine writing prompts with people in recovery. Afterwards, she worked as a Mental Health Coordinator at Riker’s Island, serving as assistant to the Directors of Mental Health and Substance Use. Julie has a longstanding interest in mental health, having majored in Cognitive Science in college, and currently in terms of medicine, and as it pertains to both research and policy. Of particular interest to her is substance use, and the varied roles that trauma plays in one’s neurophysiology, and thus their lived experience, particularly as it intersects with substance use-related behaviors and characteristics. Julie is very excited about the work conducted in the Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction lab, and is hoping to eventually contribute to the project’s design and goals. 


Vibhor Mahajan, MS, MPH.
PhD student


Vibhor is currently a PhD student in the Clinical Research program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Furthermore, he is a certified six sigma green belt industrial engineer, a public health researcher, and a data science enthusiast. His experiences have provided him with opportunities to analyze and study the healthcare sector from both qualitative and quantitative aspects in detail, while applying statistical and behavioral theories to the development and implementation of quality programs in various settings. His current research interests include use of big data analytics and computational psychiatry to analyze and comprehend the attributes of substance using populations, with an emphasis on the biopsychosocial model of addiction.


Former Lab Members

Philip Kamilar-Britt, B.A.
Clinical Research Coordinator


Philip worked as a clinical research coordinator in the Psychosocial Neuroimmune and Addiction Laboratory before starting a PhD program in Clinical Psychology in 2021. As an undergraduate student at Bennington College, Philip worked as a research assistant at human behavioral pharmacology laboratories in San Francisco and New York City, working primarily with methamphetamine, cannabis, and MDMA users. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 2014 with concentrations in clinical psychology and music, Philip began working on NIH-funded human drug administration studies at Columbia University Medical Center, during which time he published a literature review on the prosocial effects of MDMA in humans and animals. 

Marybeth Nametz, MSW
Research Assistant


Marybeth is an MSW student at New York University. She is set to graduate in May 2020. Marybeth is excited for this opportunity to understand how clinical interventions are developed and improved upon from the ground up. With particular interests in social and health prevention research, she would one day like to work on designing and evaluating programs and interventions for government and non-profit organizations – especially those that serve families and children. Prior to enrolling in her Master’s program, Marybeth worked for two years as a litigation legal assistant. She completed her undergraduate education at NYU where she studied social work and politics.

Cassandra B. Seltman, LMSW
Research Assistant


Cassandra B. Seltman is a psychoanalyst and Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in New York City. She is a PhD candidate at the CUNY graduate center and has previously studied at the Institute for Psychoanalytic training and research, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education, and Hunter College. 

Alex received her MSW in social work from NYU Silver School of Social Work in 2019. She completed a social work internship with the Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Laboratory and obtained an undergraduate degree in psychology at Lake Erie College in 2017.  Alex plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and pursue her interests in substance use and attachment disorders. Outside of work, Alex’s hobbies include playing with her cat, watching Friends, learning new languages and running through Central Park.


Dr. Keren Bachi discusses her findings on the psychosocial pathways associated with addiction at the University of Sussex (May, 2019). 

Vyoma Sahani recognized for her daily question win at the Friedman Brain Institute’s 12th Annual Neuroscience Retreat (May, 2021).

Dr. Keren Bachi was selected to co-chair a panel entitled “Recent Advances in the Role of Social Factors in Drug Addiction: Preclinical and Clinical Studies” at the 58th annual ACNP conference (December, 2019)

Vyoma Sahani presents her poster entitled “Mentalizing Deficits in Cocaine Addiction: Associations with Cognitive and Social Functioning” at the Lida Orzeck ’68 Summer Research Institute Poster Session (July, 2019) and the 47th Annual Regional Conference of the Latino Medical Student Association (February, 2020). 

Dr. Keren Bachi discusses her clinical research findings on trauma and addiction with Alan Charles (February, 2020).  

Keren Bachi, PhD, and Ed Salsitz, MD, present “Staging and Stratified Approach in Addiction Disease and Treatment” at the New York Society of Addiction Medicine (February, 2020).  

Keren Bachi leads a panel entitled “Early Predictors of Addiction” at the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai (AIMS) kick off event (October, 2019).  

Matthew Schafer- a 3rd year PhD student in Dr. Daniela Schiller’s lab– presents fMRI data collected for the current K23 grant at the Mount Sinai Neuroscience Retreat (April, 2020).

Vyoma Sahani presents her undergraduate senior thesis work at the Barnard College Neuroscience and Behavior Senior Thesis Seminar (May, 2020). 

Philip Kamilar-Britt presents a poster on socio-emotional and addiction severity correlates of cocaine use setting at the 2021 Society of Biological Psychiatry Annual Meeting (April, 2021). 

Selected Publications

  1. Moeller S.J., Kundu P., Bachi K., Maloney T., Malaker P., Parvaz M.A., Alia-Klein N., London E.D., Goldstein R.Z. (2020). Self-awareness of problematic drug use: Preliminary validation of a new fMRI task to assess underlying neurocircuitry. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 1;209:107930. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107930. Epub 2020 Feb 28. PMID: 32145661
  2. Parish-Plass N., and Bachi K. (2020). Psychodynamic Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy: Processing and Healing through Relationships. In: Driscoll, C. (Ed.). Animal-Assisted Interventions for Health and Human Service Professionals. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (NOVA), New York, NY.
  1. Bachi K., Mani V., Kaufman A.E., Alie N., Goldstein R.Z., Fayad Z.A, Alia-Klein N. (2019). Imaging plaque inflammation in asymptomatic cocaine addicted individuals with simultaneous PET/MR Imaging. World Journal of Radiology;11(5):62-73. [PMID: 31205601] [DOI: 10.4329/wjr.v11.i5.62].
  2. Colicino E., Hazeltine D., Schneider K.M., Zilverstand A., Bachi K., Alia-Klein N., Goldstein R.Z., Todd A.C., Horton M. (2019). Cocaine addiction severity exacerbates the negative association of lifetime lead exposure with blood pressure levels: Evidence from a pilot study. Environmental Disease, 4(3):75-80. [PMID: [DOI: 10.4103/ed.ed_21_19].
  3. Agurto C., Norel R., Pietrowicz M., Parvaz M.A., Kinreich S., Bachi K., Cecchi G., Goldstein R.Z. Speech Markers for Clinical Assessment of Cocaine Users. (2019). IEEE Xplore Open Preview, Paper presented at: ICASSP 2019 – 2019 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP); 12-17 May 2019, 2019.
  1. Bachi K., Parvaz M.A., Moeller S.J., Goldstein R.Z., Alia-Klein N. (2018). Reduced orbitofrontal gray matter concentration as a marker of premorbid childhood trauma in cocaine use disorder. Frontiers in Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00051
  2. Alia-Klein N., Preston-Campbell R.N., Moeller S.J., Parvaz M.A., Bachi K., Gan G., Zilverstand A., Konova A.B., Goldstein R.Z. (2018). Trait anger modulates neural activity in the fronto-parietal attention network. Plos One. 13(4): e0194444.
  3. Moeller S.J., Zilverstand A., Konova A.B., Kundu P., Parvaz M.A., Preston-Campbell R.N., Bachi K., Alia-Klein N., Goldstein R.Z. (2018). Neural correlates of drug-biased choice in individuals with current and former cocaine use disorder. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 3(5): 485-494.
  1. Bachi K., Mani V., Jeyachandran D., Fayad Z.A, Goldstein R.Z., Alia-Klein N. (2017). Vascular disease in cocaine addiction. 262(Jul): 154-162. doi:
  2. Bachi K., Mani V, Trivieri MG, Jeyachandran D, Fayad ZA, Goldstein RZ, Alia-Klein N. (2017). Reply to: “β-blocker treatment of vascular disease in cocaine addiction”. 264(Sep): 123–124. doi: 2017.07.012
  3. Bachi K., Sierra S., Volkow N.D., Goldstein R.Z., Alia-Klein N. (2017). Is biological aging accelerated in drug addiction? Current Opinion in Behavioral Science, 13, 34-39. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2016.09.007
  1. Bachi K., Parish-Plass N. (2016). Animal-assisted psychotherapy: A unique relational therapy for children and adolescents (Editorial). Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. doi: 10.1177/1359104516672549
  1. Bachi K. (2013). Application of Attachment theory to equine-facilitated psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 43(3), 187-196, first published on March 14, 2013doi: 10.1007/s10879-013-9232-1
  2. Bachi K. (2013). Equine-facilitated prison-based programs within the context of prison-based animal programs: State of the science review. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 52(1), 46-74. doi:10.1080/10509674.2012.734371
  1. Bachi K., Terkel J., Teichman M. (2012). Equine-facilitated psychotherapy for at-risk adolescents: The influence on self-image, self-control and trust. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), 298-312, first published on July 14, 2011. doi: 10.1177/1359104511404177
  2. Bachi K. (2012). Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy: The gap between practice and knowledge. Society and Animals, 20(4), 364-380doi: 10.1163/15685306-12341242
2010 & Older
  1. Bachi K. (2000). The contribution of therapeutic horseback riding to substance abusers. Animals & Society, 11, 20-26 (Hebrew).
  2. Bachi K. (2004). Summing of CIAS conference of March 28th, 2004, Penn. Uni., PA: Animal assisted interventions for adolescents with mental illness. Animals & Society, 25, 27-29 (Hebrew).
  3. Bachi K., Terkel J., Teichman M. (2007). Equine-facilitated psychotherapy for at-risk adolescents: The influence on self-image, self-control and trust. Mifgash, Journal of social- educational work, 26, 137-154 (Hebrew).
  4. Bachi K. (2007). Equine-facilitated evaluation. Animals & Society, 33, 54-62 (Hebrew).

Oral Presentations

Oral Presentations
  1. Schafer M., Kamilar-Britt P., Moeller S.J., Gabbay V., Hurd Y.L., Schiller D., Bachi K. (4.24.2020). The hippocampus encodes 2D social distances. Oral presentation. The Friedman Brain Institute 12th Annual Neuroscience Retreat 2020. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY.
  2. Bachi K. (04.06.2020). Mixed methods research: PhD dissertations and healthcare studies. PhD Dissertation Seminar, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, New York, NY.
  3. Bachi K., and Salsitz E. (2.7.2020). Staging and stratified approach to addiction disease and treatment: Work in progress. 2020 Intersection of Science, Treatment and Policy Conference, New York Society of Addiction Medicine, New York, NY.
  4. PANEL: Shaham Y. (Chair), Bachi K. (Co-Chair), Venniro M. (Presenter), Perini I. (Presenter), Bachi K. (Presenter), Rajita Sinha R. (Presenter). (12.09.2019). Recent Advances in the Role of Social Factors in Drug Addiction: Preclinical and Clinical Studies. 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), Orlando, FL.
  5. AIMS kickoff event: Bachi K. (10.30.2019). The neurobiological impact of early childhood trauma. Confronting Addiction: Science, Policy, and Care. New York Academy of Medicine, Presented by the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai.
  6. Bachi K. (10.30.2019). The neurobiological impact of early childhood trauma. Confronting Addiction: Science, Policy, and Care. New York Academy of Medicine, Presented by the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai.
  7. Bachi K. (9.26.2019). The social connection: advances in addiction phenotyping. Emerging Addiction Science Workshop of the Division on Substance Use Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York.
  8. Bachi K. (5.16.2019). Psychosocial effects in addiction: structure, function, and putative underlying neuroimmune mechanisms. Presentation in Seminar of the Sussex Addiction Research & Intervention Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
  9. Bachi K., Kundu P., Malaker P., Maloney T., Parvaz M.A., Alia-Klein N., Goldstein R.Z., Moeller S.J. (4.6.2018). Behavioral and neural mentalization deficits in cocaine use disorder. Oral presentation. 2018 New York Social and Affective Neuroscience Meet Up, Adelphi University, New York, NY.
  10. Bachi K., Mani V., Goldstein R.Z., Fayad Z., Alia-Klein N. (5.13.2015). Characterizing atherosclerosis in asymptomatic cocaine addicted individuals. Oral presentation. The Mount Sinai Neuroscience Annual Retreat 2015. The New York Academy of Medicine, New York.
  11. Bachi K. (1.15.2014). An Equine-Facilitated Prison Based Program: Effects on Recidivism. Oral presentation. The 2014 Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), San Antonio, TX.
  12. Bachi K. (3.26.2010). Research study of Youth at Risk and EFP. Oral presentation. NARHA Region 2 Conference hosted by NYSTRO at Clearpool Education Center, Carmel, NY.

If you are interested in our work and would like to inquire about research or educational opportunities, please email our principal investigator Dr. Keren Bachi at

Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunities:

Our lab is currently inviting applicants for a Postdoctoral Fellowship position in clinical neuroscience and social-cognitive neuroimaging. Directed by Keren Bachi, PhD, LCSW, our research group studies the neurobiological underpinnings of social factors in human drug addiction. We are seeking a highly motivated Postdoctoral Fellow, who will primarily assist with neuroimaging data analysis and in managing our NIH-funded research projects which utilize innovative neuroimaging, immunological, and clinical trial methodologies. The position is for a term of at least 2 years and has a flexible start date (could begin immediately). Interested candidates can find application materials here

Volunteer Research Opportunities:

If you are interested in participating in one of our research studies, please refer to the advertisements below for information on eligibility. If you fit any of the criteria listed, please call 212-585-4674 for more information.

Psychosocial Neuroimmune Addiction Lab

1399 Park ave., New York, NY, 10029