Photo_Section_Faculty - Depression Evaluation Service


PET Biomarkers in Depression Study

Why do some depressed people respond to antidepressant medications while others do not? The Depression Evaluation Service at NY State Psychiatric Institute has started a new research study for people with persistent depression that doesn't seem to go away, even with treatment.

Recent research has found that the levels of a certain enzyme in the brain, MAO-A, are different for people with depression than for non-depressed people. This enzyme is the target of a class of antidepressant medicines called the MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), which have been shown to work better in treatment-resistant depression than other classes of medication. With the help of state-of-the-art brain imaging technology, Dr. McGrath ,and his fellow DES researchers will examine whether the brain l.evels of MAO-A are different in treatment-resistant depression, and whether MAO-A levels are related to treatment outcome with an MAOI.

For people who are eligible to participate, this study provides free treatment with an FDA-approved antidepressant medication for 16 weeks, followed by 3 months of free medication treatment afterwards. Before treatment begins, participants undergo one MRI and one PET scan.

The DES has a number of studies attempting to improve upon the current trial-and-error approach to the treatment of depressive disorders, including a study that uses "wake therapy" (changes in sleep times) to help people recover from depression. Click to learn more.

Staffed by faculty at Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry, the DES (tel. 212-543-5734) is at the forefront of the evaluation and treatment of mood disorders. It has Manhattan locations at 1051 Riverside Drive (at 165th St.), and at 3 Columbus Circle (at Broadway & West 57th St.).

New NIMH-sponsored clinical trial, EMBARC

Up to this point, it has been impossible for psychiatrists to tailor depression treatments to individuals based on personal characteristics. The EMBARC study, an NIMH-funded project taking place at four universities nationwide, is a first step toward such personalized treatment. In this study we are examining biological and clinical characteristics which may be predictive of antidepressant treatment response in people with major depression. Study participants will be treated with either citalopram (Celexa) or placebo (an inactive pill) in the first stage of the study, and citalopram or bupropion (Wellbutrin) in the second. Before starting treatment, participants will come in for a range of sophisticated tests including both structural and functional MRI brain imaging and electroencephalography (EEG). Participants will then repeat the testing soon after beginning medication so that we can look for early biological signs that predict treatment response. At the end of the study, participants will be eligible for 6 months of follow up with a DES physician.

Columbia Psychiatry Columbus Circle: New Midtown Manhattan Clinical Trials Site

Columbia Psychiatry, the largest department nationwide comprising the expert psychiatrists at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, is making it possible for the public to participate in cutting-edge research studies. Last year, Columbia Psychiatry introduced an innovative online tool for finding studies to participate in, located on their website at

Now, the Department has opened a convenient new location in the Newsweek Building in mid-town Manhattan at 1775 Broadway between W. 57th and 58th streets, just one block from Columbus Circle. This additional facility will be more accessible to residents, who may find it difficult to travel to Columbia Psychiatry’s main facility at 165th St. and Riverside Drive.

Department chairman Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman says, “This new site makes access to our varied clinical trials and other research studies easier for residents in New York City.”

For more information see:

To learn more about the depression studies at Columbia Psychiatry Columbus Circle, call 212-543-5734 or 212-316-2364; for substance abuse studies call (212) 923-3031; for childhood anxiety call (212) 246-5747.

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