Professor of psychiatry elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2021

a photo of the charter of the Royal Society of Canada

By Michelle Read

Dr. Georg Northoff has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the senior collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists in the country.

Fellows are called upon to make significant and substantial contributions of knowledge, understanding, and insight through engagement with the larger society. 

A philosopher, neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Dr. Northoff conducts his research where the three fields intersect. He is one of the leading founders and originators of non-reductive neurophilosophy, a field bringing together the empirical science of the brain and conceptual matters such as emotions and other mental features associated with the mind.

In studying the relationship between the brain and mind, Dr. Northoff explores how the neural mechanisms of the brain allow it to construct subjective phenomena like the self, consciousness and emotions. He also examines how these mechanisms change through psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

His work exploring the brain-mind connection has had global impact in the field of mental health. His research is leading not only to a better understanding of our mental features like self and consciousness, but more importantly, to a less subjective, more objective diagnosis of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and depression. With these developments as a stepping stone, Dr. Northoff devises more precise, non-pharmacological therapies for these disorders; for example, he has pinpointed novel targets in the brain useful in the treatment of depression.

Dr. Northoff is part of a research team that received grants worth more than $13 million in 2020 when three Canadian research funding agencies and four UK research councils came together to strengthen research into artificial intelligence. With the goal of studying how the brain interacts with the external environment, he aims to use brain-based artificial agents, or robots, to develop a more personalized treatment for psychiatric disorders.

A full professor the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Northoff joined the Faculty of Medicine in 2009.  He is a clinician scientist with the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research at The Royal (IMHR), holding the CIHR tier 1 Canada Research Chair for Mind, Brain Imaging and Neuroethics at the IMHR. He is cross-appointed to the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine as well as to the School of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Dr. Northoff is a truly inter-disciplinary scholar with world-wide collaborations, students and global recognition. He has published more than 350 original papers garnering more than 28,000 citations and published 21 books translated into several languages for both academic and broader audiences. He has received over $60 million in peer-reviewed funding during his career and is considered to be in the top 0.01% of neuroscientists in the world. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his achievements in neuroscience, psychiatry and philosophy.

Dr. Northoff was educated in Germany, earning degrees in neuroscience, philosophy and psychiatry, as well as the title of Privatdozent from two universities, a designation granting permission to teach in one’s subjects of expertise at the highest level.

“I am grateful to be admitted to the Royal Society of Canada—it is a great honour for me and can be considered an instance of a successful immigration and integration,” says Dr. Northoff.

“The Royal Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research and the University of Ottawa have given me an enormous opportunity to pursue and develop my research into the brain-mind connection,” he continues. “I now hope to pay that back by developing better diagnoses and more precise therapy of mental health in my new, much cherished home country, Canada.”

Northoff joins one other researcher at the University elected as Fellows this year, and one elected as a member of the RSC’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. The Faculty is proud to showcase Dr. Northoff and members elected in years prior as symbols of dedication to research excellence.

Visit Dr. Georg Northoff’s website.

Watch a video interview with Dr. Northoff.

Researchers elected in 2020
Researchers elected in 2019
Researchers elected in 2018
Researchers elected in 2017

Consider supporting the University of Ottawa.

The Faculty of Medicine Scholarship for Graduate Research awards a scholarship to a PhD student who has distinguished themselves through their research conducted as part of their program of study.

Dr. Georg Northoff

Dr. Georg Northoff has joined the distinguished collegium of the Royal Society of Canada for his research leading to more objective diagnoses of psychiatric disorders—thus more effective therapies. Photo credit : The Royal

About The Royal Society of Canada:
  • The RSC was established in 1883 under an Act of Parliament as “the senior collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists in the country.”
  • The RSC consists of three bilingual Academies and the College of New Scholars, that cover the broad range of scholarly disciplines as well as the artistic and scientific fields.
  • Considered one of the highest academic accolades in Canada, election to the RSC is a distinction toward which many scientists strive.
  • Election as a Fellow of the RSC and as a Member of its College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists are but two accolades bestowed by the RSC on those scholars, artists and scientists considered the best in their field.
  • Members form one “single collegium where new advances in understanding will emerge from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural and social perspectives for the advancement of understanding and the benefit of society.”


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