Columbia University, New York City, New York

Mind And Mood Research At Columbia University

ByMyrna Weissman, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, Columbia University
February 28, 2008, 3:25 PM

— -- We at Columbia University New York State Psychiatric Institute are doing some very exciting studies on understanding how depression runs in families, and trying to figure out how to best treat it, and also to understand the origins.

We've been following a group of people who began about twenty years ago with a depressed parent, and we've studied their children, followed them, and now we're studying their grandchildren. So we have three generations. And what we have found is that depression runs rampant in families. We're trying to understand the cause, both the environmental causes and also some of the defects perhaps in neurocircuits, so we're doing imaging studies on this sample.

In addition to that, because we see it's so heavily run in families, we have become part of a national genetic study which is looking at the genetics of early onset recurrent depression because we see that these depressions recur across the ages, and they begin very early. We are recruiting people from all over the United States to participate in this study if they have depression that began before the ages of 30. They don't have to come into the office, they can be interviewed over the phone, and blood is drawn for the genetic study in their home if they would like. This work is very, very important because we want to be able to get large samples of patients and study genetics in the best way that we can, and it takes large samples, because these are complicated disorders. We have studied now over a 1,000 people, and we're aiming to get 2,000, and this phase has begun only in the last six months.

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