Research at the U-M Department of Psychiatry
Research within the Department reflects the diverse interests of the faculty. There is a rich distribution of basic and clinical studies because of the Department's basic research unit, the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute (MBNI), which focuses upon neuroscience studies and their relationship to psychiatric disorders. Some current research areas are: neuroendocrine regulation in affective disorders; basic/molecular studies of neurotransmitter receptors; effects of psychotropic drugs on steroid and neurotransmitter receptors as well as second messenger systems; molecular biology of schizophrenia and dopamine receptor systems; molecular genetics of psychiatric disorders; and post-mortem studies in psychiatric disorders.
Clinical programs and the MBNI conduct fully integrated clinical research. The Stress and Anxiety Disorders Program, for example, does extensive biological research on stress and reproductive hormone abnormalities, the links of these hormones to immune functions in affective disorders, and characterization of sleep abnormalities in affective disorders and related illnesses. Other research examines the influence of psychosocial factors on affective illness and the long-term response of these disorders to treatment modalities, including electroconvulsive therapy.
The Women and Infants Mental Health Program was developed out of a research focus on improving understanding of Mood Disorders in women throughout the lifespan. Specific foci include improving detection and treatment of untreated depression in childbearing aged women in primary care, improving access to effective treatments for perinatal depression, understanding the impact of treated vs un-treated depression on women and their children, as well as understanding the neurobiological and psychological interplay between mothers and their children. Our improved understanding of mental health issues is not possible without the help and collaboration of women and their families who choose to participate in this research, for which we are grateful.
The Addiction Research Center, the research and research training arm of the Substance Abuse Program, carries out clinical and basic research that probes the biological underpinnings of substance abuse and substance use disorder as well as the social and contextual factors that contribute to development, maintenance, and recovery. Ongoing research, involving more than 20 different NIH funded studies, focuses in five areas: developmental psychopathology and genetics; neuroimaging and neurophysiology; intervention (including treatment, early intervention, and prevention studies), health services research, and the relationship of sleep and sleep problems to the emergence and maintenance of substance use disorders.
The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry conducts research on infancy, developmental disorders, behavioral disorders, childhood anxiety disorders, childhood affective disorders, depression in adolescents, antisocial and conduct diagnostic groupings and the impact of divorce on children.
In the adult Program there is ongoing research on neuroimaging; catecholaminergic sensitivity in anxiety disorders and phobias; sleep abnormalities as defined by polysomnography in a number of psychiatric and medical disorders; neuroendocrine links between medical illnesses and psychiatric symptoms; neurotransmitter systems, especially in cholinergic systems and schizophrenia; the link between aging and alcohol abuse; and the link between stress hormones and nicotine abuse.
At the VA Mental Health Service, psychobiological research on mental health disabilities in the aging veteran is being conducted in four major areas: affective disorders, substance abuse, geriatric disorders and cognitive disorders.