About Depression Research at the University of Michigan

The research programs at the University of Michigan Depression Center build on a long tradition of excellence and collaboration between doctors and scientists.  Here are some examples of the different aspects of depression and related illnesses currently being studied at the U-M Depression Center:

Clinical trials are underway to test the effectiveness of new medications, used either alone or in new combinations.  U-M clinicians partner with experts from around the U.S. to explore new ways to treat depression.

Basic research is also being conducted to better understand what causes depression and what changes in the brain and body when depression improves. For example, studies are underway to examine the brain function of people with depression and those without it, focusing on brain activation, hormones or sleep patterns.

Outcome studies are helping us to understand which treatments work best for depressed patients in “real world” situations.  These studies also help us understand more about how individual patients are responding over time.

Prevention studies are being conducted to help us learn to predict who might get depression, and ultimately, to stop it before it starts. Based on what we observe happening in many different systems of the body, and the connection we know exists between depression and common conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, asthma and stress, we hope to develop new and effective prevention strategies.

Genetic studies are being conducted as part of helping us to better understand bipolar disorder. Much more research in this area is needed. Although the disease is known to run in families, most of the genes involved have not yet been identified. 

Longitudinal studies are also underway as part of our research into bipolar disorder. By observing people with bipolar for no less than five years, and analyzing their genetic information, the goal of these studies is to identify different patterns of the illness.

Adolescent risk studies are taking place at U-M to identify the risk factors involved in the development of bipolar disorder. If we are able to recognize the biological, behavioral, social or psychological features that predict the development of bipolar disorder, we may be able to decrease the impact the illness has on young people and their families.

Sleep studies, conducted through the U-M Sleep and Chronophysiology Laboratory, seek to understand how sleep and biological rhythms may be impacted by depression and related illnesses, and, conversely, about the role sleep plays in the onset of depressive disorders.  Electroencephalogram (EEG) technology is used to measure brain activity during overnight sleep studies conducted in our comfortable, private lab facilities.

Neuromodulation studies are also underway at U-M to develop more and better alternatives for using the brain’s electrical activity to battle depression.  Studies focus on techniques including Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS).

Nicotine research is also being conducted within the U-M Depression Center to better understand why smoking rates are significantly higher in individuals with psychiatric illnesses including depression and alcohol and drug dependence.

Click here to find out more about how you might get involved in research underway at the University of Michigan Depression Center.