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Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Laboratory

Director: Randy P. Auerbach, PhD, ABPP

Examination of the Neural Components Underlying the Treatment of Adolescent Major Depression

Presently, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the gold standard for treating adolescent depression using a psychotherapeutic approach, but it is marked by two major concerns. First, only 50-60% of adolescents successfully respond to CBT. Second, there are no known characteristics that identify which adolescents will be treatment responders. The consequence of these limitations often results in the persistence and worsening of depressive symptoms and wasted time for adolescents and families. In the current study, adolescent, aged 13-18 years, complete pre- and post-treatment neuroimaging assessments (EEG, fMRI) to identify: (a) neural mechanisms that predict symptom attenuation following CBT and (b) brain activity that changes in response to CBT administration. The insights derived from this study may allow clinicians and researchers to more effectively identify and target psychosocial, behavioral and neural mechanisms, improving the efficacy of treatment. This research is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, George Frederick Jewett Foundation, and Tommy Fuss Fund.

 

Towards Identification of Genetic and Neural Predictors of Adolescent Depression

Children of depressed parents are two to three times more likely to develop MDD than children of never-depressed parents. Maternal depression is particularly depressogenic, as 40% of the offspring of depressed mothers will develop depression. Despite this robust relationship, the mechanisms that link maternal MDD to childhood depression are not clear. In the current study, healthy low-risk and high-risk (i.e., with a maternal history of MDD) female adolescents aged 12-14 years complete a multimodal assessment using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques (EEG, fMRI, MRS) to identify neural and genetic markers that prospectively predict depression over a 2-year period. Results from this novel project may contribute to the development of a biobehavioral model of depression in adolescents. This work is funded by the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation, Dana Foundation: Clinical Neuroscience Research Grant, Tommy Fuss Fund, and FAO Schwarz Family Foundation.

 

Identifying Psychological Processes that Lead to Adolescent Self-Injury and Suicide

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and critically, research is warranted to identify underlying risk factors contributing to adolescent suicidality. Presently, we are developing and testing a model of adolescent suicide, which accounts for the integration of early life adversity during developmentally sensitive periods (e.g., child maltreatment and abuse), psychological factors (e.g., comorbidity, symptom severity), and well-known correlates (e.g., impulsiveness, cognitive control). By using retrospective and prospective designs, particularly with high-risk adolescents, we are attempting to elucidate why certain individuals engage in self-injurious and suicidal behaviors. This research is funded through the Simches Fund.

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