Eric Lenze

Eric Lenze

Head of the Department of Psychiatry & Wallace and Lucille K Renard Professor of Psychiatry

Additional Titles & Roles

  • Head of the Department of Psychiatry
  • Wallace and Lucille K Renard Professor of Psychiatry
  • Geriatric Psychiatry Rotation Director

Education & Training

  • Fellowship: General Psychiatry: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 1999
  • Residency: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1998
  • MD: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1994

Major Awards

  • Best Doctors in America (2005-present),
  • Resident Mentoring award from Washington University Department of Psychiatry, 2012
  • Washington University Distinguished Alumni Scholarship Program honoree, 2017
  • President, Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association, 2018
  • Elected to Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society, WUSM, 2018
  • Endowed as Wallace and Lucille K. Renard Professor of Psychiatry, WUSM, 2020

Areas of Clinical Interest

Anxiety disorders, depression, and brain health in older adults.

Research Interests

I am Dr. Eric Lenze, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Healthy Mind Lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. I earned my MD degree in 1994 and completed my psychiatry residency in 1998 at WashU. Following that, I pursued additional training in geriatric psychiatry. Since 2007, I have been a faculty member at WashU. As of 2022, I have taken on the role of Head of the Department of Psychiatry. I continue to see patients as well.

A main focus of my research is improving treatment for depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems in older adults, with a portfolio comprising over 350 publications, including studies featured in prestigious journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Lancet. These studies have changed our way of treating these common problems.

I am also recognized for my work on COVID-19 research. In 2020, I led a team, along with Dr. Angela Reiersen, to test existing drugs as potential COVID treatments. We successfully showed that the drug fluvoxamine could prevent deterioration in individuals with initially mild COVID symptoms. This groundbreaking research garnered widespread media attention, including a segment on 60 Minutes ( Currently, my team and I are investigating fluvoxamine for long COVID, exploring the potential to repurpose existing drugs to alleviate neuropsychiatric symptoms such as “brain fog.”

I use cutting-edge clinical trial designs to enhance the speed and quality of this science. For instance, I led a study, in collaboration with Dr. Evan Kharasch, demonstrating the equivalence of generic forms of the antidepressant bupropion to the brand form. The study utilized smartphones to allow patients to self-assess their medication response. In my latest study of long COVID, participants can engage from their homes, conducting all aspects of the study remotely, thereby reducing participant burden, accelerating recruitment, and improving outcome measurement quality.

I am also looking for new models of game-changing ways to stop the devastating outcomes suffered by those with mental illness. My most recent research focuses on mitigating the substantial “death penalty” of mental illness. Collaborating with Dr. Breno Diniz, I am exploring the potential of senolytics (medications selectively removing senescent cells from the body) to reverse the aging process in individuals with depression and other conditions associated with accelerated aging, such as schizophrenia and PTSD.

In 2021, in collaboration with Dr. Michael Avidan, I established the first-ever Center for Perioperative Mental Health. This multidisciplinary team is actively testing innovative approaches to bring high-quality, impactful treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues into the perioperative sector, aiming to mitigate the detrimental effects of mental illness on surgical recovery.

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Key Publications

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    Funded Research Projects

    NCATS(Significant Contributor):Maximizing the Impact of the Multicenter Clinical Trial Enterprise
    NIMH(PI):Enhanced Medical Rehabilitation for Older Adults
    James S. McDonnell Foundation(Significant Contributor):Reconstructing Consciousness and Cognition, Phase 2
    NIMH(PI):Mechanisms of Cognitive Decline in Late-Life Anxiety Disorders
    Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute(PI):Re-engineering Geriatric Post-acute Rehabilitation for Higher Engagement and Higher Intensity
    NIMH(Key Personnel):An Efficient Method of Testing Pharmacological Enhancement for Treating Anxiety
    NIMH(PI):2/3 Antiglucocorticoid Therapy for Cognitive Dysfunction in Late-life Anxiety
    NIH(Significant Contributor):Novel Therapeutics Research Training Program
    Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation(PI):Fall-related Injury Prevention: Pharmacogenomics to Improve Antidepressant Safety
    NIA(Significant Contributor):Self-management to Prevent Falls in Older Adults with Cancer
    NIA(Significant Contributor):Electroencephalograph Guidance of Anesthesia to Alleviate Geriatric Syndromes (ENGAGES)
    NIA(Significant Contributor):Implementation of Home Modifications to Prevent Falls for Older Adults at High Risk
    NIA(PI):Remediating Age Related Cognitive Decline: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Exercise
    McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience(PI):Functional Connectivity Mechanismsof NMDA Antagonist Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder
    NIH(Significant Contributor):Loving-Kindness Meditation and Yoga in the Return to Normal Psychological Functioning in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury
    NCCIH(PI):Optimizing Interventions to Reverse Stress Effects on the Aging Brain
    NCATS(Significant Contributor):A Mechanistic Approach to Optimize MBSR for Tinnitus
    Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute(PI):Optimizing Outcomes in Treatment-Resistant Depression in Older Adults
    NCATS(Significant Contributor):The NCATS Clinical Trial Mobile Suite
    NIAMSD(Significant Contributor):Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Adult Clinical Center
    NCCIH(Significant Contributor):Neural Mechanisms of Mindfulness: A Discordant Twin Design
    ICTS(PI):High Dose Ketamine for Treatment Resistant Depression in Older Adolescents
    NIDCD(Significant Contributor):Relieving the Emotional Stress of Tinnitus and Improving Attentional Focus Trial
    NIH(Key Personnel):Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Insomnia for Adults with Chronic Pain due to Rheumatoid Arthritis
    NCATS(Significant Contributor):Fully-Remote Clinical Trial of Exercise in Older Adults: Focus on Rigor and Reproducibility
    Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation(PI):Exercise for Older Adults: Community-based E-Technology Assisted Clinical Trial
    NIA(PI):Remediating Age Related Cognitive Decline: Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Exercise
    NCATS(Significant Contributor):Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences: Network Capacity – Liaison to Trial Innovation Centers
    NIMH(Significant Contributor):5/5 Neurocognitive and neuroimaging biomarkers: predicting progression toward dementia in patients with treatment resistant late-life depression
    NIDCD(Significant Contributor):Relieving the Emotional Stress of Tinnitus and Improving Attentional Focus Trial