Dr. Robert H. Yolken is the Theodore and Vada Stanley Distinguished Professor of Neurovirology in pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He holds a joint appointment in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and acts as chair of the Stanley Division of Pediatric Neurovirology, the nation’s first pediatric research center designed to investigate links between severe mental illness (including schizophrenia and manic depressive disorders) and early childhood viral infection.
He and his research colleagues speculate that a virus invades the brain and then lies dormant for years before triggering the onset of schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness in adolescence and young adulthood. They are investigating as possible viral triggers herpes, influenza A and B, and the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is carried by cats and farm animals. They believe that in the future antiviral medications might be developed to treat or prevent schizophrenia in some individuals.
The overall goal of the research laboratory is to develop a training and research program devoted to the elucidation of the role of infection and immunity in the etiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Interests also include elucidating the role of perinatal infections in subsequent brain development.
Dr. Yolken received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and completed a residency at Yale New Haven Hospital. He also trained at the National Institutes of Health before joining the Hopkins faculty in 1979.
He is author or coauthor of more than 250 scientific papers and the Manual of Clinical Microbiology and Beasts of the Earth.