Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D. 

Professor of Psychiatry



Contact Information

3350 La Jolla Village Drive (116B)
San Diego, CA 92161
T: (858) 552-8585


Dr. Tapert became interested in addictive behavior research as an undergraduate at University of Washington, working with Dr. G. Alan Marlatt at the Addictive Behaviors Research Center. Her focus on adolescence started during her graduate studies with Dr. Sandra A. Brown in the UCSD-SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, where she specialized in neuropsychology and behavioral medicine. Her dissertation, completed in 1998, was on the reciprocal effects of neuropsychological functioning and substance use in youth. Following completion of an APA clinical psychology internship at Brown University, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at UCSD on functional magnetic resonance imaging under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory G. Brown.

Research Interests

Research Focus

Dr. Tapert’s research focuses on brain functioning in adolescents with substance use disorders, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, and neuropsychological testing. She also studies brain functioning in youths at risk for substance use disorders, investigating children with family histories of substance use disorders and with conduct disorder. Her studies evaluate adolescent brain development and gender differences. Recent work has focused on relationships between brain functioning and the progression of substance involvement, including the formation of alcohol and drug expectancies, coping skills, and brain response to substance-related stimuli to investigate the neural substrates of cue reactivity and craving. She has been awarded ten research grants from the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2008 was honored with the APA Division 50 Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution Award, and in 2010 was elected to Fellow status in the American Psychological Association.

Clinical Focus

Dr. Tapert is the Chief of Psychology at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, and a clinical psychologist licensed in the state of California.

  • Tapert SF, Brown GG, Kindermann S, Cheung E, Frank LR, & Brown SA (2001). fMRI measurement of brain dysfunction in alcohol dependent young women. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 25, 236-245.
  • Tapert SF, Granholm E, Leedy N, & Brown SA (2002). Substance use and withdrawal: Neuropsychological functioning over 8 years in youth. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 873-883.
  • Tapert SF, Cheung EH, Brown GG, Frank LR, Paulus MP, Schweinsburg AD, Meloy MJ, & Brown SA (2003). Neural response to alcohol stimuli in adolescents with alcohol use disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60, 727-735.
  • Nagel BJ, Schweinsburg AD, Phan V, & Tapert SF (2005). Reduced hippocampal volume among adolescents with alcohol use disorders without psychiatric comorbidity. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 139, 181-190.
  • Paulus MP, Tapert SF, & Schuckit MA (2005). Neural activation patterns of methamphetamine-dependent subjects during decision making predict relapse. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 761-768.
  • Medina, K.L., Hanson, K.L., Schweinsburg, A.D., Cohen-Zion, M., Nagel, B.J., & Tapert, S.F. (2007). Neuropsychological functioning in adolescent marijuana users: Subtle deficits detectable after a month of abstinence. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 13, 807-20.
  • Tapert SF, Schweinsburg AD, Drummond SPA, Paulus MP, Brown SA, Yang TT, & Frank LR (2007). Functional MRI of inhibitory processing in abstinent adolescent marijuana users. Psychopharmacology, 194, 173-184..
  • Medina KL, McQueeny T, Nagel BJ, Hanson KL, Schweinsburg AD, & Tapert SF (2008). Prefrontal cortex volumes in adolescents with alcohol use disorders: Unique gender effects. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32, 386–394.
  • McQueeny T, Schweinsburg BC, Schweinsburg AD, Jacobus J, Bava S, Frank LR, & Tapert SF (2009). Altered white matter integrity in adolescent binge drinkers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 33, 1278-1285.
  • Squeglia, LM, Spadoni, AD, Infante, MA, Myers, MG, & Tapert, SF (2009). Initiating moderate to heavy alcohol use predicts changes in neuropsychological functioning for adolescent girls and boys. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23, 715-722.
  • Bava S, Thayer R, Jacobus J, Ward M, Jernigan TL, & Tapert SF (2010). Longitudinal characterization of white matter maturation during adolescence. Brain Research, 1327, 38-46.
  • Pulido C, Brown SA, Cummins K, Paulus MP, & Tapert SF (2010). Alcohol cue reactivity task development. Addictive Behaviors, 35, 84-90.
  • Hanson, K. L., Cummins, K., Tapert, S. F., & Brown, S. A. (2011). Changes in neuropsychological functioning over 10 years following adolescent substance abuse treatment. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 25, 127-142.
  • Jacobus J, Goldenberg D, Wierenga CE, Tolentino NJ, Liu TT, Tapert SF (2012). Altered cerebral blood flow and neurocognitive correlates in adolescent cannabis users. Psychopharmacology, 222, 675-684.
  • Schuckit MA, Tapert S, Matthews SC, Paulus MP, Tolentino NJ, Smith TL, Trim RS, Hall S, & Simmons A (2012). fMRI differences between subjects with low and high responses to alcohol during a stop signal task. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36, 130-40.
  • Squeglia LM, Pulido C, Wetherill RR, Jacobus J, Brown GG, & Tapert SF (2012). Brain response to working memory over three years of adolescence: Influence of initiating heavy drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73, 749-60.
  • Bava S, Jacobus J, Thayer RE, & Tapert SF (2013). Longitudinal changes in white matter integrity among adolescent substance users. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37, 181-9.
  • Lisdahl KM, Thayer R, Squeglia L, McQueeny T, & Tapert SF (2013). Recent binge drinking predicts smaller cerebellar volumes in adolescents. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 211, 17-23.
  • May AC, Stewart JL, Tapert SF, & Paulus MP (2014). The effect of age on neural processing of pleasant soft touch stimuli. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8, 52.
  • Squeglia, L. M., Rinker, D. A., Bartsch, H., Castro, N., Chung, Y., Dale, A. M., Jernigan, T. L., & Tapert, S. F. (2014). Brain volume reductions in adolescent heavy drinkers. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 9, 117-125.