Catherine Harmer

Professor II
Image of Catherine Harmer
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +44 (0)1865 223961
Postal address Oxford Department of Psychiatry Warneford Hospital OX3 7JX

Academic Interests

My research focuses on the cognitive mechanisms of treatments for depression and anxiety disorders. 

To explore these questions we use a variety of techniques such as fMRI, MEG, TMS, psychopharmacological challenge techniques and neuropsychological assessments in healthy volunteers and patients with depression.

This work has led to the novel idea that antidepressants may work by rapidly resolving negative affective bias in depression which leads to gradual improvements in mood, social dysfunction and other key symptoms of depression over time. 

This concept has stimulated new research approaches for the treatment of depression with implications for stratification of treatment, early prediction of therapeutic response and identification of novel therapeutic targets.

Employment history

  • Professor of cognitive neuroscience at University of Oxford

  • Adjunct Professor at the Department of Psychology, UiO

Tags: Cognitive psychology, Neuroscience


Reinecke A, Waldenmaier L, Cooper MJ, Harmer CJ. Changes in automatic threat processing precede and predict clinical changes with exposure-based cognitive-behavior therapy for panic disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2013, 73(11):1064-70

Browning M, Holmes EA, Charles M, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ. Using attentional bias modification as a cognitive vaccine against depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Oct 1;72(7):572-9

Di Simplicio M, Norbury R, Harmer CJ. Short-term antidepressant administration reduces negative self-referential processing in the medial prefrontal cortex in subjects at risk for depression. Mol Psychiatry. 2012, 17: 503-510

Browning M, Holmes EA, Murphy SE, Goodwin GM, Harmer CJ. Lateral prefrontal cortex mediates the cognitive modification of attentional bias. Biol Psychiatry.  2010, 67:919-25.

McCabe C, Mishor Z, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ. Diminished neural processing of aversive and rewarding stimuli during selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor treatment. Biol Psychiatry. 2010, 67:439-45.

Harmer CJ, O'Sullivan U, Favaron E, Massey-Chase R, Ayres R, Reinecke A, Goodwin GM, Cowen PJ. Effect of acute antidepressant administration on negative affective bias in depressed patients. Am J Psychiatry. 2009, 166:1178-84.

Harmer CJ, Goodwin GM, Cowen PJ. Why do antidepressants take so long to work? A cognitive neuropsychological model of antidepressant drug action. Br J Psychiatry. 2009, 195: 102-8

Harmer CJ, Mackay CE, Reid CB, Cowen PJ, Goodwin GM. Antidepressant drug treatment modifies the neural processing of nonconscious threat cues. Biol Psychiatry. 2006, 59:816-20.

Hayward G, Goodwin GM, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ. Low-dose tryptophan depletion in  recovered depressed patients induces changes in cognitive processing without depressive symptoms. Biol Psychiatry. 2005,57:517-24.

Harmer CJ, Shelley NC, Cowen PJ, Goodwin GM. Increased positive versus negative affective perception and memory in healthy volunteers following selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibition. Am J Psychiatry. 2004,161:1256-63.

  • Østergaard, Tom; Lundgren, Tobias; Zettle, Robert; Jonassen, Rune; Harmer, Catherine; Stiles, Tore C; Landrø, Nils Inge & Haaland, Vegard Øksendal (2018). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy preceded by an experimental Attention Bias Modification procedure in recurrent depression: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials.  ISSN 1745-6215.  19:203, s 1- 12 . doi: 10.1186/s13063-018-2515-9
  • Aker, Martin; Bø, Ragnhild; Harmer, Catherine; Stiles, Tore C & Landrø, Nils Inge (2015). Inhibition and response to error in remitted major depression. Psychiatry Research.  ISSN 0165-1781.  235, s 116- 122 . doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.11.038 Show summary
  • Jonassen, Rune; Chelnokova, Olga V; Harmer, Catherine; Leknes, Siri & Landrø, Nils Inge (2015). A single dose of antidepressant alters eye-gaze patterns across face stimuli in healthy women. Psychopharmacology.  ISSN 0033-3158.  232(5), s 953- 958 . doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3729-5

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  • Jonassen, Rune; Hilland, Eva; Harmer, Catherine; Berge, Torkil; Maglanoc, Luigi Angelo; Kraft, Brage; Stiles, Tore Charles; Haaland Øksendal, Vegard & Landrø, Nils Inge (2016). Attention bias modification reduces symptom severity in Major Depression. Preliminary analysis from an ongoing longitudinal RCT study.

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Published Jan. 28, 2014 9:00 AM - Last modified Oct. 15, 2015 2:33 PM


No ongoing projects