Poornima Kumar, PhD

Poornima Kumar, PhD

McLean Hospital Title
Harvard Medical School Title
  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry


Poornima Kumar, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an assistant neuroscientist at McLean Hospital. Her research interests focus on investigating the mechanisms through which humans learn and process reinforcements (both rewards and punishments) and how these processes might contribute to psychiatric disorders, particularly depression. She utilizes computational modeling and multimodal imaging techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to better understand the clinical and neurobiological correlates of reinforcement learning.

Core features of depression are anhedonia (loss of pleasure) and negative bias (excessive attention and memory for negative events). These deficits might to be due to abnormal reinforcement learning. Dr. Kumar’s main research objective is to build a mechanistic model of these deficits and characterize novel therapeutic interventions. In addition, she is also interested in identifying risk factors of depression.

Education & Training

  • 2002 BE in Instrumentation and Control Engineering, Madras University, India
  • 2004 MSc in Medical Imaging, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
  • 2008 PhD in Mental Health, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
  • 2011 Research Fellowship in Neurosciences, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2014-2016 Research Fellow, Laboratory for Translational and Affective Neuroscience, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School


Phone: 617.855.4244
Office Address: Belmont campus - de Marneffe Building, Room 233A