Professor Bruce Christensen

BA Psychology, University of British Columbia; PhD Clinical Psychology, Vanderbilt University
Deputy Director, School of Medicine and Psychology
Head, Psychology Discipline, School of Medicine and Psychology

I am trained as a clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist. I received my PhD in clinical psychology and neuroscience from Vanderbilt Universtiy before completing an APA-approved internship in clinical psychology and cliincal neuropsychology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre, Albert Einstien College of Medicine in New York. I then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, studying neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychopathology. I spent the first nine years of my academic career as a clinician-scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Univeristy of Toronto, with adjunct appointments to the Program in Neuroscience (University of Toronto), Institute of Medical Sciences (University of Toronto) and the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. In 2007 I moved to the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at McMaster University before accepting a faculty position in the Research School of Psychology at the ANU in 2014. I also was a Visiting Scholar at the Clare Hall Centre for Advanced Study, Cambridge University, in 2010-11. Across these settings I have directed research laboratories primarily aimed at investigating the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms of mental illness. In addition, I have established and directed two separate university-hospital-based psychological assessment clincs and served in senior university administrative positions (e.g., Associate Chair for Resarch, Associate Director-Clinical). I have also been an Associate Editor for the journal Assessment and a reviewer for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. I also spent several years ast the Co-chair of the Professional Advisory Committee and a Board Member at Healthy Minds Canada. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, reading, jazz and downhill skiing. 

Research interests

My research can be described as "cognitive psychopathology”. In broad terms, I am interested in the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms of mental illness, with an emphasis on psychotic and affective disorders. However, my lab has also studied participants with anxiety disorders, traumatic brain injuries, eating disorders and forensic histories. Several of our studies rely on evolutionary models of functional brain organization to generate neurocognitive hypotheses, which we then test using both cognitive science and psychophysical methods. In addition, when possible, we include neuroimaging techniques (including MRI, PET, EEG/ERP, TMS) to investigate hypothesized neural correlates. In this context, we have studied the impact of mental illness on visual-perception, attention, memory/meta -memory, face processing, judgment/decision making, and cognition-emotion interactions and whether these abnormalities underwrite the clinical symptoms or functional disability associated with mental illness. I am also an active clinician (clinical psychology and neuropsychology) and devote some of my time to studying psychometric and pragmatic issues relating to clinical assessment. More recently, I have used a set of multivariate statistical tools borrowed from market research (Discrete Conjoint Analysis) to better understand the needs and preferences of mental health clients in relation to service delivery. We have also used these same techniques to study the characteristics that students prefer in academic supervisors and which aspects of mental illness most influence prejudice from others. 

Summary to date:

Close to 120 peer-reviewed publications; Google Scholar Citations=6511, h-index=47, i10-index=76

Representative Publications (* denotes trainees under my supervision):

Christensen, B.K., & Bilder, R.M. (2000). Dual cytoarchitectonic trends: An evolutionary model of frontal lobe functioning and its application to psychopathology. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45, 247-256.

Christensen, B.K., Girard, T.A., Benjamin, A., & Vidaihlet, P. (2006). Evidence for impaired mnemonic strategy use among patients with schizophrenia using the part-list cuing inhibition paradigm. Schizophrenia Research, 85(1-3), 1-11.

Lau, M.A., Christensen, B.K., Hawley, L.L., Gemar, M.S., & Segal, Z.V. (2007). Inhibitory deficits for negative information in persons with Major Depressive Disorder. Psychological Medicine, 37(9), 1249-1259.

McNeely*, H.E., Lau, M.A., Christensen, B.K., & Alain, C. (2008). Neurophysiological evidence of cognitive inhibition deficits in persons with major depressive disorder. Clinical Neurophysiology, 119(7), 1578-89.

Daskalakis*, Z.J., Christensen, B.K., Fitzgerald, P.B., & Chen, R. (2008). Dysfunctional neural plasticity in patients with Schizophrenia using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Archives of General Psychiatry65(4), 378-85.

King*, J.A., Christensen, B.K., & Westwood, D.A. (2008) . Grasping behaviour in Schizophrenia suggests selective impairment in the dorsal visual pathway. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117(4), 799-811.

Elahipanah*, A., Christensen, B.K., & Reingold, E.M. (2010). Visual search performance among persons with Schizophrenia as a function of target eccentricity. Neuropsychology, 24(2), 192-8.

Girard*, T.A., Christensen, B.K., & Rizvi, S. (2010) . Visual-spatial episodic memory in Schizophrenia: A multiple systems framework. Neuropsychology, 24(3), 368-378.

Seidman, L.J., Giuliano, A.J., Meyer, E.D., Addington, J., Cadenhead, K.S., Cannon, T.D., McGlashan, T.H., Perkins, D.O., Tsuang, M.T., Walker, E.F., Woods, S.W., Bearden, C.E., Christensen, B.K., Hawkins, K., Heaton, R., Keefe, R.S.E., Heinssen, R., Cornblatt, B.A., on behalf of the NAPLS group. (2010). Neuropsychology of the prodrome to psychosis in the NAPLS consortium: Relationship to family high risk and conversion to psychosis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(6), 578-588.Elahipanah*, A., Christensen, B.K., & Reingold, E.M. (2011). Controlling the spotlight of attention: Visual span size and flexibility in Schizophrenia. Neuropsychologia, 49(12), 3370-6.

Christensen, B.K., Spencer, J.M.Y, King, J.P., Sekuler, A.B., & Bennett, P.J. (2013). Noise as mechanism of anomalous face perception among persons with Schizophrenia. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(Article 401), 1-10

Patrick*, R.E. & Christensen, B.K. (2013). Reduced directed-forgetting for negative words suggests Schizophrenia-related disinhibition of emotional cues. Psychological Medicine, 43(11), 2289-99.

Patrick*, R.E. & Christensen, B.K. (2015). Effortful versus automatic emotional processing in Schizophrenia: Insights from a face vignette task. Cognition and Emotion, 29(5), 767-783.
Paleja, M., Girard, T.A., Herdman, K.A., & Christensen, B.K. (2014). Two distinct neural networks functionally connected to the human hippocampus during pattern separation tasks. Brain and Cognition, 92, 101-111.

Christensen, B.K., Patrick, R.E., Stuss, D.T., Gillingham, S., & Zipursky, R.B. (2013). Verbal episodic memory impairment in Schizophrenia: A comparison with frontal lobe lesion patients. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 27(4), 647-66.

Kiang, M., Christensen, B.K., & Zipursky, R.B. (2014). Electrophysiological study of semantic priming in first-degree unaffected relatives of schizophrenia patients. Schizophrenia Research, 153, 78-86.

Becker*, M., Christensen, B.K., Cunningham, C.E., Furimsky, I., Rimas, H., Wilson, F., Jeffs, L., Beiling, P., Madsen, V., Chen, Y., Mielko, S., & Zipursky, R.B. (2016) Early intervention mental health service preferences: A discrete choice conjoint experiment. Psychiatric Services, 67(2), 184-91.

Current and Recent Teaching:

  • Evidence Based Assessment and Intervention (Honours)
  • Clinical Pyschological Assessment (Postgrad)
  • Psychotic and Bioplar Affective Disorders (Postgrad)
  • Clinical Neuropsychology and Rehabiltiation (Postgrad)