Bret R. Rutherford, MD

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Dr. Bret R. Rutherford graduated with honors from Harvard College, where he studied Philosophy, and received his medical education at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He continued at Columbia to complete his residency training in Psychiatry and served as chief resident in his final year. Following residency, Dr. Rutherford received research training with a National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Fellowship in Affective and Anxiety Disorders under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Roose.

In 2010, Dr. Rutherford received a Career Development Award (K23) from the NIMH and was appointed to the Columbia Department of Psychiatry faculty as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry. His early work focused on conducting novel clinical trials with integrated neuroimaging to investigate the pathophysiology of Major Depressive Disorder and the mechanisms of placebo effects in antidepressant clinical trials. Subsequently, Dr. Rutherford began to focus on depression in older adults. His current work seeks to understand age-related biological changes that place older adults at risk for developing depression, influence its manner of presentation, and govern its treatment responsivity. To elucidate pathophysiologic pathways and probe mechanisms of therapeutic action, Dr. Rutherford’s studies combine clinical trials, enrolling depressed older adults with multimodal neuroimaging, including structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as positron emission tomography (PET). For example, he has received NIMH funding for studies of how cerebrovascular aging confers risk for antidepressant non-response (R01) and a whether enhancing dopaminergic signaling if effective as monotherapy for depressed older adults with psychomotor slowing (R61/R33).

Most recently, Dr. Rutherford has expanded his work beyond Late Life Depression to understand effects of brain aging on neuropsychiatric disorders more broadly. He recently received 2 NIMH R01s to investigate the mechanisms by which PTSD accelerates brain aging and hastens cognitive decline in older adults (“Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms of the Accelerated Aging Phenotype in PTSD”) and to understand the mechanisms by which treatment resistant depression poses an increased risk for dementia (“Neurocognitive and Neuroimaging Biomarkers: Predicting Progression Towards Dementia in Patients with Treatment Resistant Depression”). Consistent with these goals, Dr. Rutherford has assumed the Directorship of the Neurobiology and Therapeutics of Aging Division in the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. The primary goal of the Division is to understand the complex interplay between aging-related biological processes and the pathophysiology underlying psychiatric disorders. By learning more about how the phenomenology, underlying mechanisms, and long-term trajectory of disorders differ between older and younger adults, Division investigators aim to develop improved prevention, early detection, and rationally designed treatment strategies for late life disorders.

Areas of Expertise / Conditions Treated

  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Aging
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Mental Health
  • Mood Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social Anxiety Disorder

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

Hospital Affiliations

  • NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia University Irving Medical Center


  • Male

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Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Internship: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
  • Residency: New York State Psychiatric Institute

Board Certifications

  • Psychiatry


A Study of L-Dopa for Depression and Slowing in Older Adults.

April 01, 2016 - March 31, 2021

Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms of the Accelerated Aging Phenotype in PTSD

July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2022

Treating Hearing Loss to Improve Mood and Cognition in Older Adults

Aug 15, 2017 – Jun 30, 2020

Mechanisms of Antidepressants Non-Response in Late-Life Depression

January 01, 2014 – December 31, 2018

2/5 Neurocognitive and Neuroimaging Biomarkers: Predicting Progression Towards Dementia in Patients with Treatment Resistant Late-Life Depression

September 18, 2017 – Jul 31, 2022

Research Interests

  • Depression

Selected Publications

  • Rutherford BR, Wall MW, Glass A, Stewart JW: The Role of Patient Expectancy in Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Antidepressant Trials. J Clin Psychiatry In Press
  • Rutherford BR, Tandler J, Brown P, Sneed JR, Roose SP: Clinic Visits in Late Life Depression Trials: Effects on Signal Detection and Therapeutic Outcome. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry In Press
  • Rutherford BR, Roose SP: A Model of Placebo Effects in Antidepressant Clinical Trials. Am J Psychiatry 2013;170: 723-733
  • Rutherford BR, Marcus SM, Wang P, Sneed JR, Pelton GH, Devanand DP, Duan N, Roose SP: A Randomized, Prospective Pilot Study of Patient Expectancy and Antidepressant Outcome. Psychol Med 2013;43: 975-982
  • Rutherford BR, Sneed JR, Tandler J, Peterson BS, Roose SP: Deconstructing Pediatric Depression Trials: An Analysis of the Effects of Expectancy and Therapeutic Contact. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2011;50: 782-795