Mood Disorders Research

Mood Disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, represent a group of common and debilitating mental illnesses. While major depressive disorder is the most widespread mood disorder with an approximate lifetime prevalence of 15%, bipolar disorder is a severe form of mood disorder with an estimated prevalence of 2-4%. The World Health Organization has ranked depression and bipolar disorder among the most disabling conditions worldwide.

A group of researchers in the UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, including Drs. Richard Shelton, Sarah Clinton, Ilan Kerman, Karen Gamble, Merida Grant, Rachel Fargason, and James Cullinan, have developed a wide range of laboratory, clinical, and translational neuroscience projects to investigate the neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders. The objective of this work is to increase our understanding of treatment for these serious conditions leading to improved treatment. Current research programs include:

  • AHRQ CHOICE Comparative Effectiveness Study, which is comparing the effects of two common treatments for bipolar disorder, quetiapine and lithium (Shelton)
  • Impact of chronic stress and environmental enrichment on the organization of brain circuits underlying stress-elicited behavioral responses (Kerman)
  • Impact of circadian misalignment induced by off-shift sleep strategies in hospital shift work nurses (Gamble)
  • Impact of dysregulation of GSK3 (therapeutic target for lithium and several of psychotropic drugs) on circadian rhythms (Gamble)
  • Impact of neonatal handling vs. maternal separation on the development of depressive- and anxiety- like behaviors and the organization of emotional-motor brain circuitry. A basic science study investigating neurobiology of somatic symptoms of mood disorders (Kerman)
  • Ketamine Treatment of Acute Suicidal Ideation in the ER, a project that is testing the possible benefits of ketamine, a rapid treatment of depression, for suicidal depressed patients in the emergency department setting (McCullumsmith and Shelton)
  • L-methylfolate for Treatment Resistant Major Depression, which is testing the possible benefits of a natural treatment, a metabolite of folic acid, for depression that is not fully responsive to antidepressant therapy (Shelton)
  • Neural correlates of fear conditioning in major depression, a translational study of brain structure and function following early life trauma and stress sensitization within unipolar depression (Grant)
  • NIMH RAPID Trials, a program of research that focuses on the development of rapidly effective treatments for depression (Shelton)
  • Obesity, Inflammation, and Depression, which is studying inflammation as a possible link between obesity and depression (Shelton)
  • Paliperidone and Lithium in the Treatment of Suicidality, an assessment of the effectiveness of two treatments for suicidal thoughts, coupled with a study of the regulation of specific genes in suicidal patients (Shelton and May)
  • Ramelteon for Bipolar Depression, a study of a completely new approach for the management of the depressed phase of bipolar disorder, the use of a medicine that helps to normalize circadian rhythms (Shelton and May)
  • Resting-state connectivity and trauma, an investigation of resting state-connectivity within unipolar depression based on differential trauma history (Grant)
  • Suicide Assessment Validation Study, a project which is comparing three ways of assessing suicide risk (May and Shelton)
  • Testing the efficacy, and safety of OPC-34712, a new medicine, as add-on treatment for people with major depression (Fargason)
  • Testing the efficacy, safety , and tolerability of desvenlafaxine succinate sustained release in the treatment of children and adolescent outpatients with major depressive disorder (Cullinan)
  • Ziprasidone Augmentation in Treatment-Resistant Depression, a study testing a new approach for the treatment of depression that does not fully respond to antidepressant therapy (Shelton)

We are currently recruiting for studies of new treatments for depression and bipolar disorder. Information about ongoing clinical trials can be found here.