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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c475

Francine M. Benes papers


The papers reflect the professional work of Francine M. Benes, a research neuroscientist who focused her work on the neuropathology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Benes did the bulk of her work at Harvard-affiliated institutions, primarily McLean Hospital and the Harvard Brain Tissue Research Center. Benes focused on the cellular examination of human brain tissue as a method to explore the course and effects of neurodegenerative disease, primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The collection includes correspondence, research files, grants administration records including grant proposals, budgets, revisions, and resubmissions as well as draft manuscripts, lecture notes, and figures and images for use in publications or presentations.


  • 1979-2014 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1985-2005


Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Records containing medical or personnel information pertinent to an individual or student information is restricted for 80 years. Records containing Harvard University material are restricted for 50 years. The end of the restriction period is noted with each folder where such material appears in Series I, III, IV, and VII. Access requires advance notice. The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services staff for more information regarding retrieval of material. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

Additionally, access to electronic records in this collection (as found in Series VII) is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit.

The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for more information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


20.75 cubic feet (21 records center cartons and 1 flat oversized box)
1.74 Gigabytes (on network storage)
The Francine M. Benes papers, 1979-2014, reflect her professional research and teaching in the field of neuroscience. Her work focused on the physical and biochemical changes in brain tissue in bipolar depression and schizophrenia. The collection is arranged in seven series: Series I. Correspondence, 1979-2012; Series II. Research Records, 1986-2011; Series III. Grants Administration Records, 1982-2011; Series IV. Harvard University Records, 1981-2014; Series V. Professional Activities Records, 1995-2013; Series VI. Writing and Publication Records, 1983-2013; and Series VII. Electronic Records, 1980-2002.

Correspondence (Series I) consists of a small amount of collocated correspondence, mainly professional. Additional correspondence is scattered throughout the other series in the collection, mainly in association with manuscript submissions or grants administration records. Researchers should be aware that in such cases, correspondence was left in its original folder.

Research records (Series II) relate to Benes' neuroscience research projects which focused on long-term pathological conditions, particularly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Records include notes, raw and processed data, figures, and compiled statistics. Material in Series II is often related to records in Series III (Grants Admininstration) and Series VI (Writing and Publication) as these were the raw materials Benes drew on for her writing in both cases.

Grants administration records (Series III) include applications for research projects as well as proposals to develop post-doctoral training programs at McLean, reports, budgets, revisions, and resubmissions along with related correspondence and memoranda among grant collaborators such as Edward Bird, Steven Matthysse, and Philip Holzman. Benes applied for and received a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health Research Career Development programs. Reference to this listing may assist in understanding records in this series.

Harvard University records (Series IV) reflect Benes' work as a teacher and mentor for students in the neurosciences, including work as part of the teaching team for the Mind, Brain, Behavior symposia series. Some Series IV records are related to grants administration material (Series III) as Benes sought funding for teaching programs including the Clinical Neuroscience Training Program.

Professional activities records (Series V) reflects Benes' active involvement in professional organizations. She presented her own research many times and facilitated the presentations of colleagues, mentees, and students. Benes also served on multiple committees to review governmental and organizational grant applications and to determine awards or organizational honors. Organizations represented include the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the American Neuropsychiatric Association, the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research, and the National Association for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Writing and publication records (Series VI) consists of records reflecting Benes' publication history, including book chapters and articles on various neuroscientific topics such as the pathology of schizophrenia, GABA cell interaction, pathological brain anatomy, dopamine, and serotonin. Final drafts are rarely included but most publications could probably be located based on the material present which includes correspondence with editors and co-authors, manuscript drafts, galley sheets, and draft figures.

Electronic records (Series VII) consist chiefly of electronic duplicates of records found in hard copy elsewhere in the collection. The bulk of the records are research, teaching, or grant-related and includes correspondence, memoranda, presentation slides, figures, and research data. A selection of the records were opened and sampled for content and format. Researchers should be aware that not all electronic files were or could be opened and that access is dependent on the ability of Public Services to make available a computer with appropriate software or to print out the requested records.

Biographical Note

Francine Mary Benes (1946-), B.S., 1967, St. John's University, New York City, New York; M.S., 1969, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York; M. Phil, 1971, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; Ph.D., 1972, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; M.D., 1978, Yale School of Medicine, is the William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; former Director of the Program for Structural and Molecular Neuroscience at McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; and Director Emeritus of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center.

Born in Queens, New York, on May 8, 1946, Francine Benes received her bachelor's degree from St. John's University, New York City, in 1967 and her M.S. from Adelphi University on Long Island, New York, in 1969. She was a teaching assistant at Adelphi during her last year at the university while also holding a position as research assistant at the Institute of Neurosciences at Creedmore Hospital in Queens, New York. In 1972, she completed a PhD in Cell Biology at Yale School of Medicine.

Between 1972 and 1975, she received post-doctoral training at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California where she used single cell neurochemistry techniques to study GABA neurons. Between 1973 and 1975, Benes held a post-doctoral position on the Public Health Service in Neurobiology at Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1974, Benes took a position as director of the neuroanatomy laboratory course at Yale Medical School, a job she held until 1977 when she was promoted to a lectureship in neuroanatomy. In 1975, Benes began medical school at Yale. During 1978, Benes was a resident in internal medicine at Waterbury Hospital in New Haven, an affiliate of Yale's medical school.

Benes received her M.D. in 1978 and began a residency as a clinical fellow at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. After completing her residency in 1982, Benes stayed on at McLean and the Harvard Brain Tissue Research Center as a researcher, continuing work on projects she had begun in the late 1970s. In 1996, Benes assumed the directorship of the Harvard Brain Tissue Research Center after the retirement of founding director Edward Bird.

During her early research career in the 1970s and 1980s, Benes focused on structural correlates to psychiatric conditions, including how the central nervous system is affected by dopamine and serotonin, the effects of the medication haloperidol (commonly known as Haldol), and microscopic and CT studies of the brain tissue of those affected by psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Changes visible via CT examination might include atrophy of cortical brain tissue or the enlargment of ventricular areas.

Benes' work developed by using the post-mortem brains of patients with a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, with special focus on determining the role of GABA cells in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders. GABA is manufactured in the brain from glutamate and generally acts as a neurotransmitter inhibiting nerve transmissions. GABA thus interacts with a wide variety of other neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, both of which have been implicated in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Benes' later research employs microarray-based gene expression profiling (GEP) to explore the genetic causes for GABA cell dysfunction and to determine how molecular mechanisms differ in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Benes is the author of multiple publications, including chapters in standard textbooks on psychopathology and neurology, and has received numerous awards over the course of her career including the Anne M. Cataldo Excellence in Mentoring Award (2012), the Kempf Fund Award in Psychobiological Psychiatry from the American Psychiatry Association (2006), the William Silen Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring from Harvard Medicine School (2005), and the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Research, Society for Biological Psychiatry. She has held memberships in the World Psychiatric Organization, the Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Biological Psychiatry, and the National Association for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Series in the Collection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1979-2012
  2. II. Research Records, 1986-2011
  3. III. Grants Administration Records, 1982-2011
  4. IV. Harvard University Records, 1981-2014
  5. V. Professional Activities Records, 1995-2013
  6. VI. Writing and Publication Records, 1983-2013
  7. VII. Electronic Records, 1980-2002

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. 2016-069. Francine M. Benes. 2016.


Two items received as part of the Francine M. Benes papers have been separated and transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum:
  1. Green canvas binder labeled "Book 5 / 5 -23" containing approximately 90 brain sections stained by Paul Ivan Yakovlev, 1930-1974. Catalog number 21749.
  2. Green canvas binder, unlabeled, containing approximately 52 brain sections stained by Paul Ivan Yakovlev, 1930-1974. Catalog number 21750.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook 2016 December.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Folder titles were transcribed from original folders which were then discarded. Titles were supplied for unfoldered materials. Material in 3-ring binders was removed from the binders and foldered. Loose 35mm slides were placed into archival enclosures.

Researchers should be aware that Benes was the recipient of multiple awards from National Institutes of Health Research Career Development programs. Reference to this listing may assist in understanding grants-related records in the collection. The abbreviations "BD" and "SZ" are common throughout the collection. They most often stand for "bipolar disorder" and "schizophrenia" and have been noted with the folders where they are used. The original abbreviation is retained in the folder title.

Files on 3.5 inch floppy disks and ZIP disks (as found in Series VII) were copied to secure network storage. A selection of the electronic files that could be opened were sampled for content, however, researchers should be aware that not every file in the collection was (or could be) opened and assessed. Electronic files for which specific software was needed, but unavailable at the time of processing, were not reviewed. Regardless of copy status, all original electronic media have been retained including 5.5 inch diskettes which could not be imaged due to lack of an appropriate drive on site.
Link to catalog
Benes, Francine M. Papers, 1979-2014 (inclusive), 1985-2005 (bulk): Finding Aid
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

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Boston MA 02115
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