Anxiety, Mood, Eating, and Related Disorders
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, which are supported by three NIMH T32 programs:
- To study 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 sponsored research includes studies that focus on:
- 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 mood and anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, chronic pain, inflammatory disorders, and post-infection syndromes.
- Experimental Therapeutics: Multiple clinical trials testing novel treatments and their mechanisms, including trials of cannabinoids and glutamatergic agents in OCD, attention training for social anxiety, habit reversal for anorexia nervosa, interpersonal psychotherapy for PTSD, investigational medications including psilocybin, chronotherapy, behavioral treatments for depression and chronic pain, and neuromodulation for a range of disorders.
- 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. A major new initiative is focused on training frontline clinicians in how to diagnose and treat OCD.
Programs and Centers
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 bilingual Hispanics, ensuring that our research includes questions of relevance to the Hispanic community’s unmet mental health needs.
The Depression Evaluation Service (DES) is an outpatient research clinic that conducts studies on the causes of and treatment for depression. Currently our main focus is on researching the use of psychedelic medications in treatment-resistant depression and other psychiatric disorders. Psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs may have major benefits for treatment, and we are actively involved in launching a new generation of studies. Our clinical trials for mood disorders and other conditions often include neuroimaging and other biological assessments, and study new drugs and treatment approaches.
The Eating Disorders Clinic is an outpatient and inpatient research and treatment program. Our mission is to understand the causes and characteristics of eating and weight disorders. Our research includes elucidating the underlying mechanisms of and developing targeted treatments for eating disorders, ranging from anorexia and bulimia nervosa to binge eating disorder and associated conditions. We collaborate with colleagues at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and clinical research groups at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, including the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. We also provide treatment for research participants.
The focus of the Anxiety Genetics Unit (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 investigate a possible syndromal form of panic disorder related to functional pain disorders. 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 and has recently completed 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.
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 Disease Centers and the Somatic Symptom Disorders Group. The comprehensive Lyme Centers address research, clinical care, and coordination of a national clinical trials network.
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.