International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

ISTSS Announces 2007 Robert S. Laufer, PhD Memorial Award Winner for Outstanding Scientific Achievement

Posted 1 January 2008 in StressPoints by ISTSS

Congratulations to Scott P. Orr, PhD, this year's recipient of the ISTSS Robert S. Laufer, PhD Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. Dr. Orr was honored during the ISTSS Awards Ceremony at the 23 Annual Meeting in Baltimore last November. The award is given to an individual or group that has made an outstanding contribution to research in the PTSD field. Ellen Frey-Wouters established this award in memory of her husband, Robert S. Laufer, PhD. 

Dr. Orr completed his doctoral work at Dartmouth College which involved the study of non-verbal communication, with a focus on the capacity of facial expressions to acquire emotion eliciting properties in an observer. His work demonstrated that humans are prepared to associate particular facial expressions with particular classes of outcomes within the framework of conditioned emotional responding.

Immediately following his doctoral work, Dr. Orr collaborated on a clinical research project that used the psychophysiological conditioning methods he had developed as a graduate student to test a conditioning theory of neurosis. A NIMH small grant allowed him to design and construct a psychophysiology laboratory at the Manchester, NH VA Medical Center. This initially modest laboratory evolved into a state-of-the-art peripheral and central psychophysiological research facility with professional and support staff of 12 full or part-time individuals. The laboratory has been emulated in more than twenty academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

In 1985, Dr. Orr’s efforts shifted to the study of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At that time, there was debate within the psychiatric community regarding whether PTSD was a "real" psychiatric condition. The outcome of a series of psychophysiological studies performed in his laboratory over the past ten years has demonstrated objectively measurable components of the emotional experiences reported by PTSD sufferers and done much to validate the PTSD diagnosis.

Dr. Orr’s PTSD research expanded to include the startle response, conditionability, brain electrophysiological responses, and functional neuroimaging. He developed a technique that allows simultaneous recording of peripheral psychophysiological activity and regional cerebral blood flow via positron emission tomography. This state-of-the-art research has provided important insights into the brain structures that mediate the heightened emotional responses during traumatic re-experiencing in individuals with PTSD.

From 1982-1992, Dr. Orr taught psychology courses in the classroom. Most recently, his teaching has involved training researchers in the use of various psychophysiological measures and methods and providing research mentorship for Harvard Medical School Residents and Fellows. In 2002, he co-founded a psychophysiology journal group at the Massachusetts General Hospital–CNY that meets bi-weekly and provides members with opportunities to present and discuss psychophysiological methods, data, and research ideas.

Recent winners of the Robert S. Laufer, PhD Award include: Stevan Hobfoll, PhD (2006); Fran Norris, PhD (2005); Patricia Resick, PhD (2004); Alexander McFarlane, MD (2003); Daniel King, PhD and Lynda King, PhD (2002); Richard A. Bryant, PhD (2001); and David Foy, PhD (2000).

ISTSS is proud to honor Dr. Orr with the 2007 ISTSS Robert S. Laufer, PhD Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement and wishes him continued success in all his endeavors.