Despite the high prevalence and burden of depression, and despite decades of research, the root causes of depression – and hence, the best ways to treat it– remain unknown. It is unknown why some individuals develop depression while others living under similar circumstances seem resilient. It is also unknown why some individuals respond well to current medications and psychotherapies while others do not. Even with appropriate care, a significant percentage of patients suffer treatment-resistant depression.
The UCSF Depression Center brings together investigators on campus, as well as collaborators across the nation, to answer these questions. Current research initiatives in the UCSF Depression Center foster collaboration between researchers in psychiatry, internal medicine, pharmacology, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, neuroimaging, neuroendocrinology, biochemistry, physiology and health psychology. Applying the combined power of these experts places the UCSF Depression Center in an uncommonly qualified position to advance depression research and treatment in the next decade and beyond. A tenet of research in the Depression Center is that complex bio-behavioral diseases such as depression require research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and that tightly integrates findings from the basic science lab with those from clinical investigations.
For example, one internal medicine specialist faculty member has been exploring problems physicians have in identifying and treating depression in the office setting. Another researcher is examining how psychotherapy needs to be modified to be effective in the elderly. A nursing researcher is examining mood changes in young children. A pharmacist and a geneticist are combining efforts to research how to best select an antidepressant for a specific individual. The Depression Center is committed to studying depression from the far-reaching perspectives of sub-cellular molecular biology to the level of the individual psyche to the level of the society in which the depressed individual lives. Finally, as a public institution, a major goal of the UCSF Depression Center is to rapidly bring our discoveries to the clinic and to the marketplace for public use and benefit.