She is a prominent neuroscientist and psychiatrist. Throughout her career she has successfully integrated interests in the arts and sciences. Her Ph.D. is in English literature, with specialization in Renaissance literature. Her first book was "John Donne: Conservative Revolutionary." After spending five years as an English professor, she changed fields, attended medical school, and began her career as a physician-neuroscientist.
Her research spans multiple topics, including creativity, spirituality, neuroimaging, genomics, and the natural history and neural mechanisms of schizophrenia. Her career has been marked by many "firsts": the first quantitative Magnetic Resonance (MR) study of schizophrenia; development of the first scales to measure the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia; the first modern empirical study of creativity that examined familial and environmental factors, cognition, and relationship with mental illness; and the first study to combine genomic techniques with neuroimaging techniques.
She has also contributed to the area of psychiatric diagnosis by serving on both the DSM III and DSM IV Task Forces. She was responsible for building the foundations for the study of stress disorders by writing the definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for DSM III.
She is past president of the American Psychopathological Association and the Psychiatric Research Society. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and was elected to serve on its governing council for two four year terms. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society for Neuroscience.
She was awarded the President’s National Medal of Science in 2000. She has also received many other awards, including the Interbrew-Baillet-Latour Prize from the Belgian government, the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat Prize from the Institute of Medicine, the Lieber Prize for Outstanding Schizophrenia Research, the Sigmund Freud Award from the American College of Psychoanalysis, the Kolb Award and the Sachar Award from Columbia University. The American Psychiatric Association has awarded her its Prize for Research, its Kempf Award for Mentoring, the Hibbs Award, it Adolph Meyer Award, and its Distinguished Service Award. She has received the Stanley Dean Award from The American College of Psychiatrists, as well as its Distinguished Service Award. Most recently, Dr. Andreasen won the Vanderbilt Prize for Biological Science and Mentoring. She was Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Psychiatry for 13 years, completing her third term in 2005.
She has written a three widely-praised books for the general public: “The Broken Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry” (1983), “Brave New Brain: Conquering Mental Illness in the Era of the Genome” (2001), and “The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius” (2005). She has also authored, co-authored, or edited twelve other scholarly books and over 500 articles.
She is the mother of two daughters, Suz Andreasen and Robin Andreasen. Suz is a jewelry designer who lives in New York City, and Robin is a professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware. She is married to Captain Terry Gwinn, a retired military officer who flew helicopter gunships for 3.5 tours in Viet Nam. She enjoys traveling, snorkeling and scuba diving, history, archeology, reading, writing, art, and music.