Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 139–146 | Cite as

Attitudes Toward Neuroscience Education in Psychiatry: a National Multi-stakeholder Survey

  • Lawrence K. Fung
  • Mayada Akil
  • Alik Widge
  • Laura Weiss Roberts
  • Amit EtkinEmail author
Empirical Report



The objective of this study is to assess the attitudes of chairs of psychiatry departments, psychiatrists, and psychiatry trainees toward neuroscience education in residency programs and beyond in order to inform future neuroscience education approaches.


This multi-stakeholder survey captured data on demographics, self-assessments of neuroscience knowledge, attitudes toward neuroscience education, preferences in learning modalities, and interests in specific neuroscience topics. In 2012, the authors distributed the surveys: by paper to 133 US psychiatry department chairs and electronically through the American Psychiatric Association to 3,563 of its members (1,000 psychiatrists and 2,563 trainees).


The response rates for the chair, psychiatrist, and trainee surveys were 53, 9, and 18 %, respectively. A large majority of respondents agreed with the need for more neuroscience education in general and with respect to their own training. Most respondents believed that neuroscience will help destigmatize mental illness and begin producing new treatments or personalized medicines in 5–10 years. Only a small proportion of trainees and psychiatrists, however, reported a strong knowledge base in neuroscience. Respondents also reported broad enthusiasm for transdiagnostic topics in neuroscience (such as emotion regulation and attention/cognition) and description at the level of neural circuits.


This study demonstrates the opportunity and enthusiasm for teaching more neuroscience in psychiatry among a broad range of stakeholder groups. A high level of interest was also found for transdiagnostic topics and approaches. We suggest that a transdiagnostic framework may be an effective way to deliver neuroscience education to the psychiatric community and illustrate this through a case example, drawing the similarity between this neuroscience approach and problem-based formulations familiar to clinicians.


Neuroscience Education Psychiatry Attitudes 



The authors thank Dr. John Oldham, Dr. Dilip Jeste, Dr. Eve Moscicki, Ms. Shelly Cohen and Ms. Janet Kuramoto of the American Psychiatric Association for coordinating the invitation of its members to complete the on-line survey, as well as the 2013 graduating class of general psychiatry at Stanford for their feedback in the pilot study. We thank Dr. Jane Kim for her input on the preparation of the illustrations of this manuscript. Finally, we thank all participants of this study for completing the survey. AE was funded by the Sierra-Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the Palo Alto VA; LKF was funded by a T32 research fellowship at Stanford University.


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence K. Fung
    • 1
  • Mayada Akil
    • 2
  • Alik Widge
    • 3
  • Laura Weiss Roberts
    • 1
  • Amit Etkin
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Massachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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