Current Research

Negative Valence Brain Targets and Predictors of Anxiety and Depression Treatment
PI: K. Luan Phan, MD
R01MH101497 – National Institute of Mental Health

Internalizing psychopathologies (IPs) involving depression and anxiety are among the most prevalent, costly and disabling illnesses. Not everyone who gets treatment for depression and anxiety gets better. We do not know very much about how treatments work in the brain, or how differences in brain function may be used to guide the right patient to the right treatment with the highest likelihood of success. This study uses state-of-the-science approaches to study brain and behavior in patients with depression and/or anxiety in the context of medication treatment and psychotherapy to help us better understand how treatments work and for whom.


Determinants of Drug Preference in Humans
PI: K. Luan Phan, MD (UIC) & Harriet de Wit, PhD (University of Chicago)
2R01DA002812-32 – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Individuals differ in their risk for developing drug addiction, possibly because of neurobiological differences in the brain reward circuit. In this project we combine psychopharmacological and neuroimaging approaches to investigate individual differences in pleasurable effects of drugs, in relation to both the brain's response to reward, and the personality trait of extraversion. The studies will advance our understanding of the biological basis of substance abuse risk, and help to identify at-risk individuals.


Brain and Mental Health Recovery
PI: K. Luan Phan, MD
5I01CX000913 – VA Clinical Science Research and Development

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit brain dysfunction that could explain disturbances in how they perceive others around them and how they manage negative emotions and stress. Little is known if these patterns of brain dysfunction exist in soldiers returning from deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq who subsequently develop PTSD, or if and how the brain changes in those veterans whose PTSD persists and in those who recover from PTSD. The purpose of this study is to use a brain imaging technique that is non-invasive, inexpensive, easy-to-conduct, and portable to the outpatient clinical setting. The imaging will be used to study the brain processes involved in the processing of fear and in the regulation of negative emotions to evaluate how these brain processes change over the course of one year in relation to PTSD in OEF/OIF/OND veterans. This knowledge should improve our understanding and treatment of PTSD.


Brain Mechanisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder
PI: Heide Klumpp, PhD
K23MH093679 – National Institute of Mental Health

Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) is a widely used first-line treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD), a prevalent, debilitating disorder. Although many do not fully recover from SAD with CBT, the specific mechanisms by which CBT exerts its therapeutic effects are unknown. The primary goal of this research is to discover the effects of CBT on brain function, particularly in relation to specific emotion regulation strategies implicated in CBT-namely, increased attentional control over threat stimuli and higher-order cognitive regulation of emotions evoked by threat-relevant stimuli. A better understanding of the brain mechanisms of CBT and of individual differences in treatment response in patients with SAD will improve our understanding of CBT mechanisms thereby optimizing current therapies and contributing to the advancement of improved therapies to increase the probability of therapeutic success.


Brain-Behavior Markers of Negative Affectivity, Comorbidity in Anxiety Disorders
PI: Annmarie MacNamara, PhD
K23MH105553 – National Institute of Mental Health

Anxiety disorders (ADs) may be more similar than different in terms of neural dysfunction. For instance, comorbidity in the ADs is common and is known to relate to severity and measures of emotional reactivity such as self-reported negative affectivity (NA), yet evidence of its underlying neurobiology is scarce. The primary goal of this research is to test the utility of a dimensional transdiagnostic approach in linking neural and behavioral measures of dysregulated negative emotion processing to clinically relevant anxiety burden characterized by comorbidity load and self-reported NA. Comorbidity load, a marker of disease burden, may aid understanding of dimensional and categorical internalizing psychopathology.

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