Ki Goosens seeks to understand how chronic stress changes the brain and makes people more susceptible to emotional disorders and other diseases. It’s known that chronic stress significantly increases the risk of psychiatric disease, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder, as well as memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. In studies that employ animal models and human subjects, Goosens takes a systems-level approach to unraveling the multifaceted effects of chronic stress in brain circuits that regulate emotional learning and memory. Her work has uncovered new mediators of the stress response, and she was the first to demonstrate a causal role of the metabolic regulator ghrelin and growth hormone in psychiatric disease vulnerability. That finding, and her discovery that chronic stress changes the way the brain uses the neurotransmitter serotonin, both offer novel pathways to treat PTSD and other conditions. She also studies the role of the immune system in the response to chronic stress, and is examining the contribution of stress-induced ghrelin resistance to harmful neuroinflammation in the brain.
Goosens received her Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of Michigan. After postdoctoral work at Stanford University, she was an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Goosens became an assistant professor at MGH in 2017.