Suma Jacob, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry

E-MAIL: [email protected]

Advising Statement:


Research Interests:

My clinical research career is focused on advancing the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), including autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  My early research involved biological underpinnings of behavior in the emerging field of social neuroscience.  This gave me the foundation to investigate the development of social and flexible learning and how disruptions in neurobehavioral systems influence inflexible, repetitive behaviors and clinical outcomes.  After post-doctoral, residency, and fellowship training, I ran an independent molecular wet lab (2008-2012) and have subsequently led a clinical research biomedical lab (2012+).  As a neuroscientist, I study the emergence of flexible versus inflexible behaviors during development and how this intersects with genetic and biological risks.  As a child/adolescent/adult psychiatrist, I am motivated to explore new treatment approaches and to identify underlying etiological and convergent pathophysiology of NDDs.  I currently co-lead Converging Approaches to Neurodevelopment Lab (CANeurodevelopment) with Christine Conelea, PhD. We focus on transdiagnostic and developmental research on behaviors related to OCD, ASD, and Tourette’s disorder. 

Current UMN projects focus on data-driven approaches to study biobehavioral differences that predict dimensional and categorical outcomes in neurodevelopmental disorders (NIH funded).  I am also investigating intervention targets and biomarker studies that predict risk and treatment response. In addition, we facilitate big data approaches through building voluntary networks (co-founder of FiND and a PI with SPARK genetics). These networks connect families to research and educational opportunities both locally and nationally. Current projects target two cohorts based on optimizing periods of brain development and the current clinical needs for novel interventions. 

A. Early childhood builds on infrastructure and multidisciplinary strengths at UMN for very early development (0-5 years old).  Repetitive behaviors and communication abilities are closely linked with emerging cognitive profiles in these years. Clinical impact during this period is significant because early intervention improves lifelong outcomes.

B. Transition age focuses on transdiagnostic opportunities at UMN through computational neuroscience and with clinical community partners that focus on teen to adult transition ages.  There are sensitive periods for social and executive development. An area of high need, this is an understudied intervention period for NDDS including ASD.

In sum, our lab goals are to optimize strengths and to shift neurodevelopmental trajectories that facilitate health and well-being across the lifespan.  Current research captures heterogeneity within and across emerging disorders that remain a challenge for identifying biological mechanisms and creating targeted treatments. 

Selected Publications:

  • Conelea CA, Jacob S, Redish AD, Ramsay IS. Considerations for pairing cognitive behavioral therapies and non-invasive brain stimulation: Ignore at your own risk. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Apr 12;12:660180.
  • Tseng A, Biagianti B, Francis SM, Conelea CA, Jacob S. Social cognitive interventions for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2020 Sep 1;274:199-204.
  • Francis SM, Beard KL, Tseng A, Chen M, Gillick BT, Jacob S, Conelea CA. Transcranial direct current stimulation for compulsivity in adolescent fraternal twins with neurodevelopmental disorders. Brain Stimul. 2020 Jul-Aug;13(4):1153-1155.
  • Jiang M, Francis SM, Srishyla D, Conelea C, Zhao Q, Jacob S. Classifying individuals with ASD through facial emotion recognition and eye-tracking. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2019 Jul;2019:6063-6068.
  • Jacob S, Wolff JJ, Steinbach MS, Doyle CB, Kumar V, Elison JT. Neurodevelopmental heterogeneity and computational approaches for understanding autism. Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Feb 4;9(1):63.
  • Francis SM, Camchong J, Brickman L, Goelkel-Garcia L, Mueller BA, Tseng A, Lim KO, Jacob S. Hypoconnectivity of insular resting-state networks in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2019;283:104-112.
  • Esler AN, Stronach ST, Jacob S. Insistence on sameness and broader autism phenotype in simplex families with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res. 2018 Sep;11(9):1253-1263.
  • Wolff JJ, Jacob S, Elison JT. The journey to autism: Insights from neuroimaging studies of infants and toddlers. Dev Psychopathol. 2018 May;30(2):479-495.
  • Montgomery AK, Shuffrey LC, Guter SJ, Anderson GM, Jacob S, Mosconi MW, Sweeney JA, Turner JB, Sutcliffe JS, Cook EH Jr, Veenstra-VanderWeele J. Maternal serotonin levels are associated with cognitive ability and core symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018;57(11):867-875.
  • Fatemi SH, Wong DF, Brašić JR, Kuwabara H, Mathur A, Folsom TD, Jacob S, Realmuto GM, Pardo JV, Lee S. Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 tracer [18F]-FPEB displays increased binding potential in postcentral gyrus and cerebellum of male individuals with autism: a pilot PET study. Cerebellum Ataxias. 2018 Feb 12;5:3.
  • Francis SM, Kim SJ, Kistner-Griffin E, Guter S, Cook EH, Jacob S. ASD and genetic associations with receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin-AVPR1A, AVPR1B, and OXTR. Front Neurosci. 2016 Nov 22;10:516.
Picture of Suma Jacob