Robert McGovern, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Robert McGovern

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Administrative Assistant Name
Deb Fellows

Administrative Phone

Administrative Email

Administrative Fax Number

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Assistant Director, Residency Program, Department of Neurosurgery

MD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

Neurosurgery, Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY

Epilepsy Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

BS, Trinity College, Hartford, CT


A native of Rhode Island, Dr. McGovern received his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and his undergraduate degree (with honors) in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Following medical school, he completed his neurosurgical residency at Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, NY, and a year-long fellowship in epilepsy surgery at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Dr. McGovern is a functional/stereotactical neurosurgeon who specializes in treating patients with epilepsy and in providing deep brain stimulation surgery for relieving symptoms in patients with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. He is splitting his time between the university (two days) and Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (three days).

Between college and medical school, Dr. McGovern spent two years working in a lab in Boston, MA. “It was an incredibly productive lab, but I discovered it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I wanted something more patient-centered.”

Neurosurgery attracted Dr. McGovern because, “I felt like I could have the most immediate impact on patients through the specialty,” he said. “I would always be at the cutting edge as we keep learning new things and applying them to whatever disease we’re interested in.”

He believes there are three important aspects to practicing neurosurgery in an academic setting: patient care, teaching and research. “When it comes to patient care, I try to be as honest and transparent as I can about what goes into a surgery,” he explained. “It’s a journey you take together with your patient, so no one is surprised on either end.”

From a teaching standpoint, Dr. McGovern believes that, “educating patients, residents and medical students is one of the most important things we do in an academic practice. What’s especially nice at the VA is that there is only one resident for each six-month rotation, which gives you an opportunity to develop an intimate relationship. It’s a great way to teach.”

Dr. McGovern and his family live in the Edina/Richfield, MN, area. When he has spare time, he likes to play with his son, find new restaurants to eat at with his wife, stay active and hopes to run in the Twin Cities marathon in October. He also is a passionate sports fan who loves all sports, but particularly baseball and his “beloved” Red Sox. 


Stereotactical, functional neurosurgery

Professional Associations

  • American Epilepsy Society, trainee member
  • American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, resident member
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons, resident member
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons, candidate member


Research Summary/Interests

Dr. McGovern hopes to set up a lab to study refractory (untreatable) gait and balance problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease. “I did some work in this area when I was a resident at Columbia University,” he said. "Working with Parkinson’s patients who have DBS systems, we now have the technology to record brain signals as patients perform certain tasks. I’m interested in trying to figure out which brain signals are important in this context and how they might be related to gait and balance issues.”

On the clinical side, Dr. McGovern wants to determine why there aren’t more epilepsy surgery referrals. “It was amazing how many epilepsy patients I saw in Cleveland who initiated the visit themselves or accidentally ended up with us,” he explained. “They were so clearly good surgical candidates. It’s seems to be acceptable for a patient to have seizures. If someone sees a brain tumor on an MRI, most people feel it needs to be urgently removed. Because it seems like a chronic condition, epilepsy is seen as something patients must simply live with. But if you help someone become seizure-free, it changes their lives. They can get off disability, they can get a job, they can drive. It’s such a massive thing for people. I’m interested in figuring out how to overcome existing biases against referring patients for this potentially life-changing surgery.” 


Publications under review

  • McGovern RA, Pestana-Knight E, Gupta A, Naduvil Valappil AM, Wyllie E, Bingaman WE, Gonzalez-Martinez J. Robotic-assisted stereoelectroencephalography in children. Accepted for publication at Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.
  • Jones J, Alomar S, McGovern RA, Fitzgerald Z, Gale JT, Gonzalez-Martinez J. Techniques forPlacement of SEEG Depth Electrodes: Comparison of Implantation and Tracking Accuraciesin a Cadaveric Human Study. Accepted for publication at  Epilepsia.


  • McGovern RA, Alomar S, Bingaman WE, Gonzalez-Martinez JA. Robot-assisted responsive neurostimulator placement in medically intractable epilepsy: instrumentation and technique. Operative Neurosurgery. 2018 May (Epub ahead of print)
  • McGovern RA, Sheth SA. The Role of the Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Converging Evidence from Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychiatric Neurosurgery. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2017 Jan;126(1): 132-147.
  • McGovern RA, Banks GP, McKhann II GM. New techniques and progress in epilepsy surgery. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2016 Jul; 16(7): 65.
  • McGovern RA, Chan AK, Mikell CB, Sheehy JP, Ferrera VP, McKhann II GM. Human substantia nigra neurons encode decision outcome and are modulated by categorization uncertainty in an auditory decision making task. Physiological Reports. 2015 Sep; 3(9).
  • Sinha S, McGovern RA, Sheth SA. Deep brain stimulation for severe autism: from pathophysiology to procedure. Neurosurg Focus. 2015 Jun; 38(6):E3.
  • Sinha S, McGovern RA, Mikell CB, Banks GP, Sheth SA. Ablative Limbic System Surgery: Review and Future Directions. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports. 2015 Jun; 2(2):49-59.
  • McGovern RA, Ratneswaran T, Smith EH, Jongeling AC, Bateman LM, Schevon CA, Feldstein NA, McKhann II GM, Sheth SA. Investigating the Function of Deep Cortical and Subcortical Structures Using Stereotactic Electroencephalography: Lessons from the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2015 Apr 15; (98).
  • Sosunov AA, McGovern RA, Mikell CB, Wu X, Coughlin DG, Crino PB, Weiner HL, Ghatan S, Goldman JE, McKhann GM. Epileptogenic but MRI-normal perituberal tissue in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex contains tuber-specific abnormalities. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2015 Apr 2;3(1):17.
  • McGovern RA, Kelly KM, Chan AK, Morrissey NJ, McKhann II GM. Should ventriculoatrial shunting be the procedure of choice for normal pressure hydrocephalus? Journal of Neurosurgery 2014 Jun; 120(6):1458-64.
  • Chan AK*, McGovern RA*, Zacharia BE, Mikell CB, Sheehy JP, Bruce S, McKhann II GM. Racial disparities in access to deep brain stimulation surgery in Parkinson’s Disease: A population based study. JAMA Neurology 2014 Mar; 71(3):291-9. *shared first authorship
  • Rayshubskiy A, Wojtasiewicz TJ, Mikell CB, Bouchard MB, Timerman D, Youngerman BE, McGovern RA, Otten ML, Canoll P, McKhann II GM, Hillman EM. Direct, intraoperative observation of ~0.1 Hz hemodynamic oscillations in awake human cortex: implications for fMRI. Neuroimage 2014 Feb; 87:323-31.
  • Mikell CB, Sheehy JP, Youngerman B, McGovern RA, Wojtasiewicz T, Pullman S, Yu Q, Goodman RR, Schevon C, McKhann GM, II. Auditory novelty detection is encoded by dopamine neurons in human substantia nigra. Brain Research 2014 Jan;1542:79-84.
  • McGovern RA, Sheehy JP, Zacharia BE, Chan AK, McKhann II GM. Outcomes in Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease Remain Unchanged Despite a Decentralization of Care: Data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2002-2009). Journal of Neurosurgery 2013 Dec;119(6):1546-55.
  • Chan AK*, McGovern RA*, Zacharia BE, Mikell CB, Bruce SS, Sheehy JP, Kelly KM, McKhann II GM. Inferior short-term safety profile of endoscopic third ventriculostomy as compared to ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement for idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus: A population-based study. Neurosurgery 2013 Dec; 73(6):951-60. *shared first authorship
  • McGovern RA, Sheehy JP, McKhann II GM. Low Pressure Hydrocephalus in the Setting of Sepsis and Cardiovascular Collapse. Case report. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery 2013 Oct;115(10):2186-8.
  • Sosunov AA, Wu X, McGovern RA, Coughlin DG, Mikell CB, Goodman RR, McKhann II GM. The mTor pathway is activated in glial cells in mesial temporal sclerosis. Epilepsia. 2012; 53(Suppl. 1):78-86.
  • Komotar RJ, Zacharia BE, McGovern RA, Sisti MB, Bruce JN, D’Ambrosio AL. Approaches to anterior and anterolateral foramen magnum lesions: A critical review. Journal of Craniovertebral Junction and Spine. 2010. 1(2):86-99.
  • Poston KL, McGovern RA, Goldman JS, Caccappolo E, Mazzoni P. Fragile X-Associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS) with Myoclonus. Movement Disorders. 2010; 15;25(4):514-6.
  • Mikell CB, McKhann GM, Segal S, McGovern RA, Wallenstein MB, Moore H. The Hippocampus and Nucleus Accumbens as Potential Therapeutic Targets for Neurosurgical Intervention in Schizophrenia. Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. 2009; 87(4): 256-265.
  • Dhillon H, Zigman J, Ye C, Lee CE, McGovern RA, Tang V, Kenny CD, Christiansen LM, White RD, Edelstein EA, Coppari R, Balthasar N, Cowley MA, Chua SC, Elmquist JK, Lowell BB. Leptin Directly Activates SF1 Neurons in the VMH, and This Action by Leptin Is Required for Normal Body-Weight Homeostasis. Neuron. 2006; 49(2): 191-203.
  • Balthasar N, Dalgaard LT, Lee CE, Yu J, Funahashi H, Williams T, Ferreira M, Tang V, McGovern RA, Kenny CD, Christiansen LM, Edelstein E, Choi B, Boss O, Aschkenasi C, Zhang C, Mountjoy K, Kishi T, Elmquist JK, Lowell BB. Divergence of melanocortin pathways in the control of food intake and energy expenditure. Cell. 2005; 123(3):493-505.
  • Coppari R, Ichinose M, Lee CE, Pullen AE, Kenny CD, McGovern RA, Tang V, Liu SM, Ludwig T, Chua SC, Lowell BB, Elmquist JK. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus: A key site for mediating leptin’s effects on glucose homeostasis and locomotor activity. Cell Metabolism. 2005; 1(1): 63-72.
  • Balthasar N, Coppari R, McMinn J, Liu SM, Lee CE, Tang V, Kenny CD, McGovern RA, Chua SC Jr, Elmquist JK, Lowell BB. Leptin Receptor Signaling in POMC Neurons Is Required for Normal Body Weight Homeostasis. Neuron. 2004; 42(6):983-991.

Book Chapters

  • McGovern RA, Jehi LE, Gonzalez-Martinez JA, Bingaman WE. Outcomes and Complications of Epilepsy Surgery. Wyllie’s Treatment of Epilepsy, 7th edition. Under review. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. Philadelphia, PA
  • McGovern RA, Gonzalez-Martinez JA. Stereo-electroencephalography: Methodology and Surgical Technique. Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery, 2nd edition. Under review. Thieme Publishing, New York, NY
  • McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. Intracranial monitoring techniques. Neurosurgical Operative Atlas: Functional Neurosurgery: 3rd edition. In press. Thieme Publishing, New York, NY.
  • McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. Selective approaches to the mesial temporal lobe. Youman’s Neurological Surgery, 7th edition. Nov 2016. Elsevier Publishing. New York, NY.
  • McGovern RA, Pacia S, McEvoy A, Tandon N, McKhann II GM. Introduction and controversies in epilepsy. Youman’s Neurological Surgery, 7th edition. Nov 2016. Elsevier Publishing. New York, NY.
  • McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Surgical Resection in Controversies in Stereotactic Radiosurgery. Feb 2014. Thieme Publishers. New York, NY.

Non-Peer Reviewed Articles

  • Sinha S, McGovern RA, Sheth SA, McKhann GM 2nd.. It's all in your head: context-dependent cortical pain processing in the orbitofrontal cortex. Neurosurgery. 2015 Feb;76(2): N10-1.
  • Nelp TB, McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. Why Glioma Patients Seize: Adding More Pathological GABA to the Glutamate Hypothesis. Neurosurgery. 2014 Dec;75(6):N10-1.
  • McGovern RA, Russo JF, Sheth SA, McKhann II GM. What's holding your horses: prefrontal cortex "top-down" control of conflict-driven subthalamic activity. Neurosurgery. 2014 Oct;75(4):N13-4.
  • McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex Neurons as the Basis for the Gratton Effect: A Unique Study of Human Cognition. Neurosurgery. 2012; 71(4): N9-10.
  • McGovern RA, McKhann II GM. The ERSET Trial of Early Surgery for Mesial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Results and Frustrations. Neurosurgery. 2012; 70(6): N23-4.

Selected Oral Presentations

  • McGovern RA. Human substantia nigra neurons encode decision outcome and are modulated by uncertainty in an auditory categorization task. American Association of Neurological Surgeons Meeting, Washington, DC, May 2015.

Selected Poster Presentations

  • McGovern RA, Chan AK, Zacharia BE, Mikell CB, Bruce SS, Sheehy JP, Kelly KM, McKhann
  • II GM. Inferior Short-Term Safety Profile of Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy as Compared to Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Placement for idiopathic Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: A Population-Based Study. American Association of Neurological Surgeons Meeting, San Francisco, CA, April 2014. 1st place in general category.
  • McGovern RA, Sheehy JP, Chan AK, Mazzoni P, McKhann II GM. Novel Technique in Intraoperative Behavioral Experiments: Simultaneous Microelectrode Recording and Motion Capture. American Association of Neurological Surgeons Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 2013.
  • McGovern RA, Cortes JC, DiBiasio F, Greene PE, McKhann II GM, Mazzoni P. Kinematic Analysis of Postural Responses in Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s Disease and Aging. American Association of Neurological Surgeons Meeting. Miami, FL. April 2012
  • McGovern RA, Wilson AP, Rao AK, Greene PE, McKhann GM, Mazzoni P. The Quantitative Pull Test: A Method to Measure Parkinsonian Postural Instability. American Academy of Neurology Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, CA, April 2010.
  • McGovern RA, Sosunov AA, Wu X, Mikell CB, Wright ZG, McKhann GM. mTOR activation in MTLE astrocytes: A Therapeutic Analogy from Tuberous Sclerosis Complex? Digital poster presentation. Congress of Neurological Surgeons Meeting, New Orleans, LA, October 2009.
  • McGovern RA, Wallenstein MB, Rao AK, McKhann GM, Mazzoni P. Quantitative Motor Examination in Patients with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Digital poster presentation. Congress of Neurological Surgeons Meeting, New Orleans, LA, October 2009.