Anxiety, Mood, Eating, and Related Disorders

  • H. Blair Simpson, MD, PhD

    Area Leader, Vice Chair of Research, Department of Psychiatry

    Headshot of H. Blair Simpson

Overview

The mission of this research area is to advance the understanding of and treatments for anxiety, mood, eating, and related disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neuroinflammatory disorders, and somatic disorders. The area includes over 40 faculty researchers, who are grouped administratively into four programs and two centers. Their research is funded by federal and state government, foundations, philanthropy, and industry. Major accomplishments over the years include: establishing panic disorder and social anxiety disorder as distinct treatable entities, establishing the efficacy of medications, cognitive-behavioral therapies and their combinations for a range of disorders (depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, hypochondriasis, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety disorder), developing a groundbreaking inpatient eating disorders research unit, and elucidating the cognitive and psychiatric manifestations of Lyme disease. This area also provides research training opportunities; these are supported by two NIMH T32 programs: 1) Research Training in Late-Life Neuropsychiatric Disorders; and 2) Research Training in Biobehavioral Disturbances of Eating Disorders.

Goals

  • To pursue research on the etiologies and pathophysiology of anxiety, mood, eating, and related disorders, including OCD, PTSD, neuroinflammatory disorders, and somatic disorders.
  • To develop new diagnostic tools and new treatments for these disorders.
  • To align this research with the education programs and clinical services of the department.
  • To translate this research into services that can be integrated into the NYS-OMH system of care.

Current Research

Current sponsored research includes studies that focus on:

  1. Mechanisms of Disease: Multiple studies in collaboration with neuroimagers and basic and cognitive neuroscientists to elucidate the brain mechanisms of and to identify biomarkers for anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, anorexia nervosa, and chronic pain;
  2. Experimental Therapeutics: Multiple clinical trials testing novel treatments and their mechanisms, including trials of glutamatergic agents in OCD, attention training for social anxiety, habit reversal for anorexia, interpersonal psychotherapy for PTSD, and investigational medications, chronotherapy, and behavioral treatments for depression and chronic pain; and
  3. Dissemination of Evidence-Based Care: Various community partnerships to examine best practices for disseminating evidence-based care and reducing health disparities in New York State for these disorders.

Programs and Centers

The Anxiety Disorders Clinic

The Anxiety Disorders Clinic is an outpatient research clinic devoted to the study of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder. It also includes the Center for OCD and Related Disorders, with research aimed at identifying genetic and brain mechanisms underlying obsessions and compulsions and developing novel therapeutics, and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research and Treatment Program, which focuses on trauma-exposed people. Finally, the Anxiety Disorders Clinic includes the Hispanic Treatment Program, which focuses its research on monolingual and bi-lingual Hispanics, ensuring that our research includes questions of relevance to the Hispanic community’s unmet mental health needs.

Visit the Anxiety Disorders Clinic

Visit the Center for Obsessive Compulsive Treatment and Related Disorders

Visit the PTSD Research and Treatment Program

Depression Evaluation Service

The Depression Evaluation Service (DES) is an outpatient research clinic that conducts studies of the causes of and treatment for depression. Our clinical trials for mood disorders and other conditions often include neuroimaging and other biological assessments. New initiatives include the exploration of biological mechanisms that may affect treatment response, and studies of new medications for depression and bipolar disorder.

Visit the Depression Evaluation Service

The Eating Disorders Clinic

The Eating Disorders Clinic is an outpatient and inpatient research and treatment program that conducts research of the underlying mechanisms and targeted treatments for eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and associated conditions. Research at the Center includes collaborative projects with colleagues at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, and clinical research groups at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, including the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

Visit the Eating Disorders Clinic

Anxiety Genetics Unit (AGU)

The focus of the AGU is on heritable and genetic contributions to anxiety and anxiety disorders using psychophysiological and clinical phenotype definitions. The AGU has been involved in linkage studies of anxiety as well as translational studies looking for potential psychophysiologically-based factors. Current funding efforts are directed toward family-based studies to identify possible large effect rare variants that contribute to a syndromal form of panic disorder. The AGU has also been involved with the Center for Research on Ethical, Legal & Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic & Behavioral Genetics to examine the attitudes of researchers and patients toward the genetic results. Currently, the AGU is conducting a pilot study in collaboration with the Columbia Women’s Program to investigate potential effects the return of genetic results might have on parenting in the case of a complex genetic disorder such as depression.

Center for Neuroinflammatory and Somatic Disorders

The mission of the Center for Neuroinflammatory and Somatic Disorders is to help patients whose illness falls at the intersection of medicine, neurology, and psychiatry. We investigate the biological, developmental, and psychosocial causes of chronic illness and somatic symptoms through translational research. The center is comprised of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center and the Somatic Symptom Disorders Group.

Visit the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center

Visit the Developmental Psychosomatics Lab

Visit Columbia Psychosomatics Conferences

New York State Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence

Affiliated with the Anxiety Disorders Clinic, the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence is one of the few research centers in the country focused on cultural competence that is linked directly with a mental health authority. It receives state, federal, and local funding to conduct research that improves the quality and cultural competence of mental health services and helps reduce health and health care disparities. We focus on six research initiatives: integration of physical and mental health services, access to language interpreters, culturally-competent engagement, suicide prevention, mental health policy and social determinants of mental health, and first-episode psychosis.

Visit the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence