William D. "Scott" Killgore, PhD

Professor, Medical Imaging
Professor, Psychiatry
Professor, Psychology

Dr. William "Scott" Killgore is a clinical neuropsychologist whose research focuses on understanding the brain systems involved in emotional processes and cognitive performance.  His work combines neurocognitive assessment with state-of-the-art neuroimaging methods to study the role of emotion in complex cognitive processes such as moral judgment, decision-making, and risk-taking.  He is also interested in how these brain-behavior systems may be affected by environmental and lifestyle factors such as insufficient sleep, nutrition, light exposure, physical activity, and stimulants such as caffeine. In particular, Dr. Killgore has explored the role of sleep as a mediator of psychological and emotional health and the potential role of insufficient sleep as a contributor to psychiatric disturbance, emotional dysregulation, and risk-related behavior. His current research is funded by the Department of Defense and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with the aim of addressing critical performance and mental health needs of active military personnel and returning combat veterans. He has more than $7 million in grant funds from the Department of Defense to study methods for accelerating recovery from mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Presently, Dr. Killgore is principal investigator on multiple projects, including three aimed at improving sleep-wake patterns among individuals with mild traumatic brain injuries and/or post-traumatic stress disorder, while a fourth study is focused on modeling the recovery patterns of brain connectivity and cognitive performance at various stages of recovery following concussion. He is also actively researching internet-based methods for enhancing emotional intelligence and resilience capacities as well as web-based interventions for treating depression and other psychiatric disorders. Dr. Killgore also has over 13 years of military service, including 5 years on active duty as a Medical Service Corps officer and Research Psychologist in the United States Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom.  While stationed at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, DC, Dr. Killgore served as Chief of the Neurocognitive Performance Branch and Special Volunteer with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders within the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Killgore continues to remain active as a Research Psychologist in the U.S. Army Reserve, currently holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. From 2000-2010, Dr. Killgore was an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, with a 5-year leave of absence during his active military service.  He was appointed at the rank of Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in 2010 with promotion to Associate Professor at Harvard in 2012. There, he served as Director of the Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. Presently, he serves as editor of several journals including Datasets in Neuroscience, Datasets in Medicine, and the Journal of Sleep Disorders: Treatment and Care. He is also on the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Eating Disorders.  During the course of his career, Dr. Killgore has published over 130 scientific articles and book chapters, and has co-authored nearly 300 published abstracts and conference proceedings with his students, advisees, and fellows. In 2014, Dr. Killgore joined the University of Arizona College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry.

Research Interests: 

Dr. Killgore's research has emphasized the study of higher order cognition and executive functions and how these cognitive abilities are influenced and guided by subtle affective processes. Recent sleep-related research has focused on the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, chronic sleep restriction, and the use of stimulant countermeasures on the cognitive-affective systems within the brain. This line of investigation suggests that sleep deprivation alters the metabolic activity within several important affect-regulating regions of the brain, including the medial prefrontal cortex, resulting in subtle but profound effects on specific aspects of affect and cognition. These changes appear to impair the ability to use affective processes to guide judgment and decision-making, particularly in high-risk or emotionally charged morally relevant situations. His recent investigations also suggest that while commonly used stimulants such as caffeine, modafinil, and dextroamphetamine are highly effective at reversing sleep-loss induced deficits in alertness and vigilance, their restorative effects on the cognitive-affective decision-making systems of the brain may be much more limited.

  • PhD: Texas Tech University,1996
  • MA: Texas Tech University, 1992
  • BA: University of New Mexico,1990
Honors and Awards
  • Young Faculty Award in Neuroscience, Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), 2012
  • 2011 Top Poster Award in Clinical and Translational Research, Society of Biological Psychiatry, 2011
  • Harvard Medical School-McLean Hospital, Neuroimaging, 1999-2000
  • University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Clinical Neuropsychology, 1997-1999
  • University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Clinical Neuropsychology, 1996-1997
  • Yale School of Medicine, Clinical Psychology, 1995-1996