Brains of the BRAIN Lab

Christian G. Schütz, MD, PhD, MPH, FRCPC

Lab Director

Christian is a practicing psychiatrist, a Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry, and the Research and Education Medical Manager at Red Fish (formerly BCMHA). He holds an MD from the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany, a Ph.D. in Medical History from the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, and an MPH from John Hopkins University. He also completed a Fogerty-Fellowship at NIDA/NIH and DISCA-Fellowship at Yale University. He has published over 140 peer-reviewed articles and a dozen book chapters and has supervised more than 30 students across the globe in areas such as psychiatry, addiction medicine, and clinical neuroscience. His research interests include psychological and pharmacological interventions for individuals with substance use disorders, psychoneurobiological aspects of impulsive decision making, and substance use and concurrent disorders more general. Linkedin.com/in/christian-g-schütz-53171941/

Research Summary:

1. Understanding mechanism of relapse and impulsive decision-making to improve treatment of addiction and concurrent disorders.

2. Develop novel interventions focused on stimulant use disorder (includes habitual retraining, rIFG based TMS, integrated psychotherapy/psychedelic intervention)

3. Develop a more comprehensive integrated mind/brain-based sound concept of motivation and decision making.


Thomas Chao, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Thomas received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the New School for Social Research in New York. and completed his Psychology predoctoral residency at the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction in Toronto. Before this, he did a NIDA-funded 3-year graduate addiction research fellowship at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. His current primary research interest is in understanding how subjective states, impulsivity and decision-making perpetuate addictive patterns of behaviour. Thomas is currently focused on multiple projects including ROAR CANADA. During his downtime, Thomas enjoys a variety of hobbies, such as keeping up-to-date with the latest tech, growing his own vegetables and foods, and finding opportunities to go on off-grid outdoor adventures.

Asaly Skrenes, MEd

PhD Candidate (Clinical Psychology)

Asaly is a third-year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student from the University of Edinburgh. Her research topic is on disclosure, sexuality, and resilience in male childhood sexual abuse, which is a collaboration project with UBC under Dr. Schütz. She completed a Masters in Psychology of Education from the University of Manchester. Asaly has worked on studies involving men’s help-seeking with UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program, as well as on projects with the University of Edinburgh—cognitive-emotional maturity in adolescents and sexual health. Currently, she is working on a systematic literature review on EEG and substance use disorder under the B.R.A.I.N. Lab. In her free time, Asaly enjoys exercising and playing sports, as well as traveling and learning languages.


Austin Lam, MD, BSc Honours

Psychiatry-Research Track Resident Physician

Austin is a Psychiatry-Research Track resident physician in the UBC Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine. He holds an M.D. from the University of Toronto and a BSc (Honours) in psychology with a minor in philosophy from McGill University. His research interests lie broadly in forensic mental health and concurrent disorders. Relating to addiction psychiatry, specific areas of interest include phenomenology of substance use disorders and insight deficits in addiction. He is also working with Dr. Tonia Nicholls in the Nicholls Lab as part of the Research Track. He maintains a strong interest in philosophy, literature, poetry, and history outside of work.

Karina Thiessen, BA, BEd

PhD Student (Neuroscience)

Karina is an Incoming UBC Neuroscience Ph.D. student. Prior to transferring to PhD program from her Master's, She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Education at UBC. Her research interests include stress and interactions between physical health and substance use. Currently, she is taking on CAPU RISE, a randomized control drug trial investigating the effects of cannabinoids on stress and impulsivity in polysubstance users. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, playing guitar, and cooking (despite her fair share of kitchen nightmares!). You can find her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/karina-t-3033981b8.


Karling Luciani, BSc 

MSc Candidate (Neuroscience)

Karling is a UBC Neuroscience Master’s student in the B.R.A.I.N. lab. Karling completed her Bachelor of Science in Honours Neuroscience at the University of Guelph where she researched the neurobiology of dual disorders in rodent models. Her current research interest looks at mental illness and addiction in clinical populations. In the B.R.A.I.N. lab, Karling will investigate impulsivity using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans of individuals with Bipolar disorder. In her free time, Karling enjoys hiking, volunteering with the national mental health organization Jack.org, and spending time with her brother and sister as she is a triplet.


Stefanie Todesco, BA & BSc Honours

MSc Candidate

Stefanie is a graduate of McGill University (B.A. & Sc. in Honours Cognitive Science) and currently works as a neurofeedback technician. Prior to joining the B.R.A.I.N. lab, she conducted research at McGill involving affective cognition and addiction. Her research interests include the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying mental health and substance use disorders and the efficacy of novel interventions to improve cognitive functioning in psychiatric disorders. Stefanie’s favourite ways to de-stress are taking long walks, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family!

Laura Schmid, BA 

Assistant Research Manager, Coordinator for Red Fish (formerly BCMHA) & Heartwood Studies, Research Trainee

Laura completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in better understanding patterns of substance use following exposure to traumatic events in childhood, as well as the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of co-occurring substance use disorders and PTSD. In her free time, she loves to draw and spend time outside.


Max Hemmerich

CAPU RISE Study Coordinator

Max is a fourth-year BSc student in the Behavioural Neuroscience program at UBC. He is currently coordinating CAPU RISE study, examining the effects of cannabinoids on delay discounting, and conducting a concurrent validity analysis of a physical and psychological health survey in a concurrent disorder population. His research interests include the development, treatment, and cognitive deficits associated with mood and substance use disorders, and he is pursuing graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. He loves to cycle, hike, eat, sleep, read, and make music in his spare time. linkedin.com/in/max-hemmerich/


Sydney Penner

Assistant Research Coordinator & Research Trainee

Sydney completed her BA in Psychology at Simon Fraser University in 2022. In her degree, she explored psychopharmacology, clinical forensics and biopsychology. Her directed studies with the lab examined phase shifts in the circadian rest-activity rhythms of individuals with schizophrenia, opioid and stimulant use disorders. More recently, her research interests are in the psycholegal field, looking at the in-patient population of NCRMD individuals with concurrent disorders.


 

Sarah Munoz-Violant, BA & MSc Candiate

Clinical Research Coordinator, The Red Fish Virtual/Digital Innovation Hub. Wearables pilots – Strategic Investment Fund (SIF)

Sarah is a graduate student in Health Sciences at SFU. She completed a BA in Psychology at UBC and has since led various research projects in the areas of digital health, health psychology, and neuroscience. See her publications here.

She developed and is currently implementing the SIF Red Fish Virtual/Digital Innovation Hub Initiative, composed of three pilots integrating the use of pioneering technologies into the treatment of clients experiencing complex co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder (SUDs).

Sarah previously led the SASRAR project (Sexual Abuse and Sleep and Rest/Activity Rhythms in individuals undergoing inpatient treatment for co-occurring mental illness and SUDs). Sarah also works as a front-line worker in the Downtown Eastside at WISH Drop-in Centre Society, a space providing services to female and gender-diverse street-based sex trade workers. Email her at sarah.munozviolant@ubc.ca or connect with her here.


Zachary Allan, BA

Clinical Research Coordinator, Clairvoyant

Zack recently graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in anthropology. His research interests involve the stress response and underlying biological mechanisms contributing to depression and anxiety, with a particular emphasis on how exercise can mediate and influence this relationship. He is currently the coordinator for the Clairvoyant Study and hopes to pursue a career in clinical psychology.  In his free time, Zack enjoys exercising, spending time by the ocean, and caring for his plants.

 

Joanna Pater, BA

Research Trainee

Joanna graduated from Simon Fraser University Psychology and is currently pursuing a degree in medicine. Her research interests include sleep and circadian rhythms, especially as they relate to mental health. She is also interested more broadly in the interactions between biological, psychological, and behavioural factors and how they influence health. In her free time, she enjoys playing the flute, skating, and fencing. She also enjoys gardening and playing with her bunnies.

 


Liam Gorsuch

Research Trainee, Lead Research Assistant for ROAR at Red Fish

Liam is an undergraduate student at UBC pursuing a BA Honours degree in Psychology. He is currently completing his third-year Honours thesis with the lab, investigating complex post-traumatic stress disorder and overdose incidence among concurrent disorders inpatients. His research interests include trauma, the intersection of psychology and the legal system, and psychedelic-assisted therapy. He is also the lead research assistant for the ROAR CANADA study at Red Fish Healing Centre, and hopes to pursue graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. In his free time, he enjoys photography, gardening, and spending time with family.


Noor Ramadhan

Research Trainee

Noor Ramadhan is an honours psychology student focusing her research on the relationship between naturalistic psychedelic use and substance use severity. She also works as a research assistant on the Clairvoyant study which is a clinical trial investigating the safety and efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy for alcohol use disorders. She hopes to introduce psychedelic-assisted therapy to the Middle East and improve access to marginalized people. In her free time, she enjoys being out in nature either camping, kayaking, hiking or biking where she enjoys taking time off to reset.


Priya Johal, BA (Hons)

Research Assistant, Former Honours and Directed Studies Student (Psychology)

Priya recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Honours) at the University of British Columbia and did her senior thesis and Directed Studies project with the BRAIN Lab. Her research interests include understanding the relationship between traumatic experiences and substance use motivations, patterns, and treatment outcomes. She is currently involved in ROAR CANADA and AVATAR and is working on manuscripts for publication. Outside of the BRAIN Lab, Priya is working with a research team testing a mobile app intervention for people living with bipolar disorder. In her free time, Priya enjoys reading novels, watching movies with friends, and learning more about outer space.


Rachel Dunn

Honours Student (Psychology)

Rachel is a fourth-year undergraduate in the Honours Psychology program at UBC. For her third-year thesis, she studied the influence of age on impression formation and she is currently working in the B.R.A.I.N. lab as a Research Assistant on the ROAR CANADA project and the MED1 project. She plans to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology and her research interests include the intersections of spirituality, psychopathology, and psychedelic-assisted therapy. In her free time, she enjoys laughing with friends, being in nature, and cuddling her cat.


Suzanne Paddinge, BA

Directed Studies Student (Psychology), Research Assistant

Suzanne recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Simon Fraser University and is pursuing a Masters of Counselling Psychology and Art Therapy at Adler University.  Her research interests focus on informed consent and relational autonomy in research.  She is currently involved in CARES and the Patient Oriented Research Team.  In her free time, Suzanne enjoys time with her kids, painting, and spending time near the ocean.

 

 

Alyssa Turcott

Lead Research Assistant for CARES at Red Fish

Alyssa is a fourth-year undergraduate student completing a double major in Biology and Psychology at UBC. In addition to her involvement with the B.R.A.I.N. Lab’s ROAR study, she works as a research assistant with the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Program to understand and improve the life experiences of people with traumatic brain injuries. Her research interests include the influence of TBIs on caregiver well-being and the relationship between mental illness and substance use disorders. Alyssa’s favourite pastimes include experimenting with vegan baking, exploring Vancouver’s trails, and searching for new cafés to try.


Benyamin Zargar, BSc

Lead Research Assistant for ROAR Knowledge Hub and Communications

Benyamin is a medical student (MD1) at Deakin University. He received a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a minor in History from Simon Fraser University. His desire for conducting research has prompted him to be involved in a variety of research namely clinical research, patient engagement, behavioural interventions for long-term management of chronic diseases, healthcare system design (General Surgery Learning Health System), and molecular targets for anti-cancer drugs. Alongside his sizzling passion for knowledge translation, he enjoys reading about ancient Near East mythology and political geography. You can find him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/benzargar/.


Kayvon Karimi, BA

HRI Research Lead

Kayvon is the research lead for the hybrid-response inhibition study, looking at decision-making in clinical populations using fMRI, assessing the impact of transcranial magnetic stimulation on decision making. For hobbies, Kayvon is a gamer/streamer and enjoys playing through horror games with friends on stream!


Harmanpreet Ranote, MD

Senior Research Assistant

Harman is a medical graduate from Christian Medical College, India. He currently works on CEASAR, CAPU survey and ROAR CANADA projects. His research interests include mental health and disorders, substance use, the opioid epidemic, concurrent disorders and mental health and substance abuse interventions. He likes to de-stress in his free time by reading and listening to audiobooks, hiking and exploring different parts of British Columbia. You can find him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/harmanranote.


Abigail Yuen, BA (Hons)

Research Assistant

Abigail is a recent graduate from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in psychology and a minor in philosophy. She has a background in forensic, clinical, and social clinical psychology, having worked in various positions with Dr. Tonia Nicholls, Dr. Paul Hewitt, and Dr. Toni Schmader. At the BRAIN lab, Abigail is a research assistant for the ROAR CANADA study, where she works on-site with patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. Her specific research interests include personality disorders, psychopathy, and evidence-based psychotherapy. Outside of work, Abigail’s hobbies include taking pictures of her cat, hiking scenic trails, and singing in the Vancouver Youth Choir.


Alessia Risi, BSc

Research Assistant

Alessia is a second-year Doctor of Pharmacy student at UBC. She previously completed her BSc at McGill University, majoring in Pharmacology. Her research interests include drugs of abuse, addiction, and mental health with a focus on pharmacotherapy and optimization of patient care. Before joining the B.R.A.I.N. Lab, Alessia has been involved in research regarding the reversal of opioid toxicity and precipitation of opioid withdrawal in patients treated with naloxone in Vancouver emergency departments. Alessia currently volunteers as a research assistant on the ROAR CANADA Study and CAPU Clinical Study. In her free time, Alessia enjoys playing basketball, movie nights, and spending time with family and friends to de-stress.


Atousa Mehrsai, BA

Research Assistant

Atousa Mehrsai has a Bachelor of Psychology from UBC. Her research interests are in neurological fields such as the nervous system, neuroscience of motivation, addiction, brain dysfunction and recovery. She hopes to pursue graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. During her free time, she reads poems, listens to music, learns about the human body and does exercises.


Bessie Guo

Research Assistant

Bessie is a third-year Bachelor of Science student in the Behavioural Neuroscience program at UBC. Her research interests include mental health and disorders, motivation, and cognition. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in scientific communications. Whenever she’s free, she enjoys hiking, painting, listening to audio drama podcasts, as well as creating animations.


Grace Martin-Wirta

Research Assistant

Grace is an Indigenous student embarking on her third year in undergraduate studies at UBC. She is pursuing a Psychology major and a Philosophy minor, and is currently focusing her career aspirations on the field of applied developmental and clinical psychology. Grace's specific passion lies in studying the age group of youths aged 16-24, with a keen focus on their access to mental health services, smooth transitions into adulthood, and identifying the contributing factors in the individual’s mental disorder(s). Her dedication to understanding these critical aspects of mental well-being demonstrates her commitment to making a meaningful impact in this field. Outside the lab, Grace enjoys spending time with her special needs sister, travelling anywhere and everywhere, and taking naps (most of all). You can find her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/grace-martin-wirta-0a891723a/.


Jasneet Sabrao

Research Assistant

Jasneet is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Her research interests include addiction and craving, substance abuse therapies, and, most recently, utilizing psychedelics as treatment for certain psychiatric conditions. At the B.R.A.I.N. Lab, Jasneet is a research assistant for the CARES study and the Clairvoyant study, with hopes to attend grad school for clinical psychology. During her free time, she enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, painting, and reading!


Katy Yang

Research Assistant

Katy is a third-year undergraduate student at UBC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Health and Society. She is particularly interested in studying the relationship between neurological processes and physical health outcomes amongst individuals diagnosed with brain and addiction disorders. She hopes to invest her time into further developing research literature and clinical treatments for these vulnerable populations through further pursuance of graduate studies. In the lab, she is part of the HRI team. Outside of the lab, Katy enjoys travelling, hiking, spending time with friends, and taking walks around Stanley Park.


Logan Isfeld

Research Assistant

Logan is a third-year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at the University of British Columbia. Complementing his major, he is actively pursuing a minor in counselling psychology. Within the diverse fields of psychology, he directs his academic endeavours toward the realms of clinical and behavioural neuroscience, with a particular interest in the neuropathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, he plans to continue his studies at the graduate level in either behavioural neuroscience or clinical psychology. Logan is a research assistant for the Marshall study at Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction. In this role, he administers neuropsychological assessments to patients suffering from debilitating substance use disorders and severe co-occurring psychiatric disorders. In his free time, he enjoys teaching, engaging in sociopolitical discourse, and spending quality time with friends and family.


Lucia Forward

Research Assistant

Lucia is a fourth-year BSc student in the Behavioural Neuroscience program at UBC. Her research interests are focused on stress and anxiety, trauma-informed care as well as overdose and relapse prevention. Outside of the lab, she enjoys taking dance classes and performing in musicals and plays. https://www.linkedin.com/in/luciaforward/


Miku Wake

Research Assistant

Miku is a third-year undergraduate student at UBC studying Neuroscience in the Faculty of Science. Her research interests include psychiatric disorders, brain injury and trauma, and pediatrics. She is part of the ROAR project at the Heartwood Centre for Women, and plans to continue to graduate studies in Neuroscience or Psychology. In her spare time, she can be found visiting new eateries with her friends, thrift shopping, and drawing or reading.


Ningjing (Chris) Sang

Research Assistant

Chris is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UBC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Commerce. She is interested in woman's health, particularly studying the relationship between drugs and physical health outcomes amongst individuals with mental health issues. Chris is currently on the HRI team. For future study, Chris would pursue a Master's degree in Woman's health or Health Psychology. Outside of the lab, Chris enjoys powerlifting, eating, reading novels, and spending time with loved ones.


Paul Kee

Research Assistant

Paul is a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioural Neuroscience and a minor in Biochemistry. His research interests include immunological abnormalities in substance use disorders and depression, dysregulated catecholamine signaling in addiction, and epigenetic heritability for neuropsychiatric traits. In addition to his involvement with the HRI team, Paul is working as a research assistant for the BC Neuropsychiatry program In his free time, Paul likes to read Stephen King novels, explore new restaurants, and play chess with his friends.


Tania Li

Research Assistant

Tania is a third-year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at UBC. Her research interests include the long-term health consequences of stress, mental health, and treatment interventions within clinical psychology. Currently, she is a research assistant working on the ROAR CANADA project in the B.R.A.I.N. Lab. In her free time, Tania enjoys reading, hiking, crochet, as well as spending time with friends and family.


Taylor Zaidel

Lead Research Assistant for ROAR at Heartwood

Taylor is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UBC, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Honours Psychology. Her research interests include mental health comorbidities with a focus on depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as crisis intervention. She is a lead research assistant on the ROAR CANADA study at Heartwood. Taylor has also conducted research on adolescents with depression, suicidal ideation, and ADHD. In her free time she likes to do yoga, spend time with friends and family, and volunteer with the Kids Help Phone.


Wendy Cheung

Research Assistant

Wendy is a third-year undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience. Her research interests include factors influencing the severity of mental disorders, as well as the physiological effects of substance use on the cognition of healthy individuals and psychiatric patients. She is currently working on the CAPU RISE study in the B.R.A.I.N. lab with hopes that the findings can help better understand the motivation behind drug addiction and find more effective ways to help people struggling with addiction. Wendy wishes to integrate research throughout her future education no matter what path she pursues. In her free time, Wendy likes to play instruments, swim, and write creative stories.


Yenah Byun

Research Assistant

Yenah Byun is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UBC pursuing a Psychology Honours and Nutrition minor degree. She is involved in clinical, forensic, and health psychology, working with Dr. Tonia Nicholls at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital and Dr. Jennifer Black in investigating the relationship between nutrition and psychology. Her research interests examine the emergence and treatment of psychiatric disorders, specifically through non-conventional treatments and therapies. At the B.R.A.I.N Lab, Yenah is a research assistant for the Clairvoyant Study, which investigates the efficacy of psilocybin treatment on individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder. In her free time, Yenah enjoys hiking, running, and photography.


Alex Romanchuk

Research Assistant

Alex is a second-year undergraduate student at UBC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. Their research interests include neural circuits related to consciousness, eating disorders, and psychedelic therapy as a potential treatment of various psychopathology. Alex is currently involved as a research assistant with the ROAR CANADA project and the MED1 project. To destress, they love swimming in the ocean, cycling, and painting. 


More Lab Members

Keenan Klassen | Medical Student

Aarya Tamrakar | Aksheen Chahal | Amelia Pellaers | Amanda Lee | Andrea Hernandez | Andrew Li | Anisha Lehal | Anurada Amarasekera | Arnima Singh | Bianca Biacora | Cara Johnston | Cindy Chang | Cindy Li | Christiane Wesarg | Clement Chui | Curtis Holton | Danielle Co | Darya Skrenes | Eliscia Sinclair | Friederike Albers | Grace Nie | Hanie Edalati | Javeria Irfan | Jessica Booth | Jennifer Multani | Jovin Khehra | Karla Glaweski | Kirsten Wesselow | Laura Labonté | Luce Calderon | Maia Buschmann | Maggie Milsom | Mark Ng Shun | Matt Hanna | Marina Le | Michelle Zhang | Paul Cocker | Rachel Kardal | Sahi Hajirawala | Sara Vazirian | Stephen Lee-Cheong | Tanisse Epp