Recent Grant Awards for Innovative Research in Psychiatry

September 13, 2013 - The Department of Psychiatry continues to be a generator of innovative and transdisciplinary research. Recent grant awards include:

Karen Weihs, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Chair for Research, was awarded $30,000 by the Dell Webb Foundation to study “Autonomic Physiology of Emotion Regulation and Depression in Breast Cancer Survivorship” with co-Principal Investigator John J.B. Allen, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Reviewers of the grant application said, “Identification of factors that predict risk of depression or worsening depression, particularly a direct physiological measurement, offers an opportunity for early intervention for prevention and treatment. With more than 2 million women in the U.S. (approaching 3 million) living as breast cancer survivors for decades post breast cancer diagnosis, the high incidence of depression in the population is a significant problem. Having a more quantifiable metric of risk would not only enhance identification of patients at risk but also improve clinical delivery of prevention measures and treatment.”

This funding was made by the Foundation through the University of Arizona Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) Basic/Clinical Partnership to Promote Translational Research.

Charles Raison, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine and Barry and Janet Lang Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciencesreceived a $20,000 pilot grant from the Institute of Mental Health Research to study “Antidepressant Effects of Whole Body Hyperthermia.”

Dr. Raison and his study team will conduct a rigorous, placebo-controlled study of mild whole body hyperthermia, building upon prior data from the research team suggesting that sensory pathways running from the brain to the body may be involved in the development of major depression and may hold promise as new ways of treating the disorder.

"What's really remarkable in the work done so far is the evidence that is beginning to accumulate suggesting that it might be possible to treat this hugely costly mental illness by interventions based in the body, not in the brain," according to Dr. Raison. "We also have some evidence to suggest that it might be more possible to predict who will and who will not respond to body-based treatments like hyperthermia than it has been to predict who will and will not benefit from standard antidepressants."

Patricia Haynes, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatrywas awarded $10,000 through a University of Arizona Community Connection Grant to study, “Supporting Tucson Firefighters in Critical Incident System Response.”

To promote resiliency in firefighters responding to community crises (critical incidents), Dr. Haynes will collaborate with the Tucson Fire Department to develop and test a local, sustainable crisis incident response system informed by psychological science. If successful, this project will strengthen our collective, local ability to respond quickly and recover from community tragedies and also contribute to the scientific knowledge base in mental health intervention.

Nicholas Breitborde, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, was awarded $10,000 through a University of Arizona Faculty Seed Grant for his proposal, “Does Familial Handedness Predict the Course of Psychotic Disorders?”

Despite the many advances in the treatment of psychotic disorders, clinicians typically have little information to guide the personalized prescription of evidence-based treatments for a given patient (e.g., will this patient benefit most from a more or less intensive treatment package?). This dearth of information stems in part from the lack of easily implemented measures that assess the known predictors of the course of these illnesses.

Unfortunately, incorporating known course predictors such as imaging of cerebral asymmetry) into everyday clinical practice faces many barriers (namely, cost). A promising, and more cheaply implemented assessment of cerebral asymmetry is familial handedness. Thus, the goal of this study is to examine the association between familial handedness as a promising and easily implemented measure, cerebral asymmetry, and the course of psychotic disorders.

Release Date: 
09/12/2013 - 1:37pm