What does the study involve?

We are seeking depressed individuals interested in treatment, and healthy volunteers to participate in a research study that aims to identify predictors of suicidal behavior.  Research participants will be asked to complete a series of research procedures, including brain imaging scans (MRI and possibly PET), a social stress test and various clinical assessments.

How long does it typically take to complete the study procedures?

Typically, study procedures are completed over five weeks; however, the length of time needed to complete the study will depend both on the participant’s schedule and the availability of brain imaging slots at our PET and MRI centers.

What does the process entail?

First, you will speak to a research coordinator by phone to determine if you meet preliminary eligibility criteria for the study. If it appears that you are eligible to participate, you will be scheduled to come in for an in-person screening where you will meet with several members of our research team to complete a thorough psychiatric assessment. There is no compensation for the in-person screening. If entry criteria are met, and you are interested in participating, you will be asked to enroll in the study by signing a consent form after all the research procedures and any associated risks are described to you. You will be given a copy of the consent forms to take home. This study is approved by the New York State Psychiatric Institute Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Study procedures are scheduled to be completed over a series of 3-4 appointments. During the first appointment, you will begin some of the clinical assessments and complete the stress test. Typically, the second visit will include the MRI and some additional clinical assessments. At the third visit, you may be scheduled for a PET scan and also be asked to complete some additional clinical assessments. If all study procedures cannot be completed within this time period, you may be asked to come in on a separate date(s) to complete the remaining procedures.

Who should I contact if I’m interested in participating in the study?

If you would like to volunteer as a study participant, please contact our research coordinator at 646-774-7561.

Research Procedures


How do I prepare for the stress test?

We ask that participants refrain from using tobacco as well as consuming food and caffeinated drinks one hour prior to the stress test.

What does the stress test entail?

The stress test involves the completion of two mildly stressful social tasks. During these tasks, we will be monitoring your heart rate and will be collecting salivary cortisol samples and blood cytokine samples to measure how your body reacts to stress. It does not require you to pass/fail anything.

Is it possible to see the MRI/PET scanners beforehand?

Yes, we give participants the opportunity to lie down in a mock MRI scanner in order to experience what will happen on your scan day. While there is no mock PET scanner available, participants are able to go to the PET suite and see the actual scanner prior to the procedure.

Do I have to take out metal piercings for the MRI?

Yes, completing the MRI requires that all metal piercings be removed as well as any accessories/clothing that contains metal.

Are PET scans safe?

As part of your initial screen, we will complete a physical to ensure that you are physically healthy enough to participate in the PET scan. The exposure to radiation in each PET scan is only a bit more than what you would receive in one year from natural background sources.

Can I stay on my medications during the study?

In order to participate in the MRI and PET scans, we will help you taper off your medications. After the study procedures are completed, we will work with you to find a set of medications that will work for your depression.

Treatment and Compensation


Do you offer post-study treatment?

Yes, if desired, we offer participants up to 6 months of free outpatient medication treatment upon completion of study procedures with one of our psychopharmacologists. You and your health insurance cover the costs of medication from your pharmacy. After the 6 months, we will help to connect you with new treatment providers.

What if I need inpatient treatment?

At the New York State Psychiatric Institute, we have inpatient psychiatric facilities available for voluntary patients at no cost, as part of the research study, if indicated.

Will the results of my brain scans and other research procedures help inform my treatment?

Upon request we will send you your MRI results. While the results of the brain scans will not help inform your treatment, it is our hope that study findings will help us to identify predictors of suicidal behavior in the future.

Is there compensation for research participation?

Research participants are compensated for their participation in study procedures.

When will I be compensated?

Participants will receive compensation upon completion of all study procedures. Payment is by check and is mailed 4-6 weeks after study completion.