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Henry Szechtman


Dr. Szechtman’s life-long academic pursuits have been the mechanisms of psychopathology, an interest ignited by the discovery with Seymour Antelman that activation of dopamine systems by a non-painful tail-pinch induces eating in rats, a phenomenon that was published in Science and led to the notion that dopaminergic stimulation enhances responsiveness to survival-related behavior. His research on the role of dopamine systems in normal and abnormal behaviour yielded an animal model of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) with David Eilam (Tel-Aviv University) and a new theory for OCD with Erik Woody (University of Waterloo). Current research employs both animal and human studies in testing psychological and neurobiological facets of the theory that a dysfunction in a biologically primal security motivation system can yield various forms of psychopathology, including OCD.

Featured Publications

Szechtman H, Woody E, Bowers KS, Nahmias C. (1998).  Where the imaginal appears real: A positron emission tomography study of auditory hallucinations.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 95:1956-1960.  Available free online at

Szechtman H, Woody EZ (2004) Obsessive-compulsive disorder as a disturbance of security motivation.  Psychological Review, 111(1):111-127.

Hinds, A. L., Woody, E. Z., Van Ameringen, M., Schmidt, L. A., & Szechtman, H. (2012).  When too much is not enough: Obsessive-compulsive disorder as a pathology of stopping, rather than starting.  PLoS ONE, 7(1):e30586.

Tucci, M. C., Dvorkin-Gheva, A., Johnson, E., Cheon, P., Taji, L., Agarwal, A., Foster, J., & Szechtman, H. (2014). Performance of compulsive behavior in rats is not a unitary phenomenon - validation of separate functional components in compulsive checking behavior.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 40(6):2971-2979.

Szechtman, H., Shivji, S., & Woody, E. Z.  (2014).  Pathophysiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder: Insights from normal function and neurotoxic effects of drugs, infection and brain injury. In: R.M. Kostrzewa (Ed.), Handbook of Neurotoxicity, Springer New York, pp. 2231-2253.

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Clinical and Research Interests

  • Associate Member, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour
  • Associate Member, Department of Biology


  • Weizmann Fellow (Department of Isotopes), Weizmann Institute of Science, 1980
  • Post-doctorate Fellow (Institute of Animal Behavior), Rutgers - The State University, 1977.                
  • Ph.D. (Psychobiology), University of Pittsburgh, 1975
  • B.Sc. (Psychology), McGill University, 1969

Research Areas

Analysis of behavioral syndromes induced by psychoactive drugs; mechanisms of action of psychostimulant drugs; animal models of psychosis and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); neurochemistry of normal and abnormal behavior. 

Psychobiology and psychopathology of Security Motivation and Precaution/Hazard Systems. 

  • Evolutionary psychobiology and psychiatry.
  • Brain imaging in schizophrenia and OCD. 
  • Neuro-immune mechanisms in behaviour. 
  • Brain mechanisms of hypnosis.
  • Analysis of locomotion and movement disorders.
  • Neural and hormonal control of sexual behaviour.

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