The Depression Research Clinic

The Depression Research Clinic at Stanford University was founded in 1992 by the former Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, Alan F. Schatzberg, MD, to conduct research on the causes of and treatments for unipolar depression. The Research Clinic began with one study comparing two different medications for the treatment of chronic depression. The clinic has grown extensively, and today includes four psychiatrists, two psychologists, and a number of clinical research coordinators. The clinic specializes in conducting research on novel and innovative treatment approaches for all types of clinical depression. At the present time, the clinic is conducting numerous treatment studies on depression and other disorders.

The Depression Research Clinic is run under the direction of Charles DeBattista, D.M.H., M.D. and H. Brent Solvason, Ph.D., M.D. Dr. DeBattista and Dr. Solvason are active investigators in the biology of mental illness, and have published extensively on the neurobiology and psychopharmacological treatment of mood disorders. Currently, their research and clinical interests include treatment of refractory depression, novel treatment strategies, and the neurobiology of mood disorders.

Participation in one of the clinic's research studies involves coming to Stanford for regular visits. During study visits, study participants typically meet with a research psychiatrist and a research coordinator. While meeting with the research psychiatrist, participants discuss current depression symptoms and any medical issues related to the treatment. Also, participants may meet with a member of the research team who is trained to administer certain psychiatric assessments. These assessments allow the research team to thoroughly monitor the participant’s symptoms of depression throughout the course of the research study. Most studies conducted in the Depression Research Clinic involve treatment with study medication. The only exceptions are occasional device studies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)or observational studies where participants may complete questionnaires or various tests such as MRI.  Study medication received as part of a research study is provided to participants at no cost.

Participation in a research study offers several advantages. All study-related clinic visits, psychiatric evaluations, physical examinations, laboratory work, and medications are provided at no cost to eligible participants. This is a considerable benefit, given the rising costs of mental healthcare. In addition highly trained professionals at Stanford University assess research participants on a regular basis to ensure comprehensive care.

However, there can be disadvantages to being a research participant. Study visits may take more time than what is typically required for an average patient, and will include the completion of a variety of questionnaires, as well as answering questions about depression symptoms. Moreover, research protocols frequently limit the dosing of the study medication, and often restrict the use of medications other than those being studied. In some double-blind studies, participants have the possibility of receiving placebo (sugar pill) instead of the active medication. Before enrolling in any study, potential participants will be told of the possibility and percent chance of being placed in the placebo group. Follow-up care may be provided for a limited time after participation in a placebo-controlled study. Most research appointments are scheduled Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Within that time frame, we do try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate participants' schedules.

Eligibility to participate in a research program is determined through a careful screening process. The first step is a telephone interview lasting approximately 20-30 minutes, administered by a member of the research team. During the interview, you will be asked about your physical and mental health. If you appear to be eligible, you will be sent a copy of the informed consent form to read prior to enrolling in the research study.  If still interested in participating, you will then meet with a member of the research team to review the consent form and answer your questions, after which you will be evaluated further according to the research study protocol. Research studies usually have very specific criteria for entry and people with serious medical conditions are frequently ineligible.