September, 29, 2016 — According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2014, there were an estimated 43.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness. Currently, mental disorders are diagnosed largely based on the interview between the patient and an experienced clinician. What happens when psychologists take into account the physical changes in the brain and body that go along with mental distress when providing a diagnosis? One study aims to find out the effects.
The study, “Fear, Anxiety, and Depression: Measuring brain and body in mental disorders”, is supported by a new initiative of the NIMH that aims to increase research on the physical changes in brain and body that accompany mental distress. The Principal Investigator is Peter J. Lang, Ph.D., a graduate research professor in the department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida, and director of the Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention and its affiliated Fear and Anxiety Disorders Clinic.
“The goal of the research is to develop an understanding of the physiology of mental disorders”
Lang said the exploration of the brain and physical measures could help define mental disorders, which could lead to new, more effective treatments.
Participants in this research are first evaluated by standard clinical interview, under the supervision of licensed clinical psychologists. “In the project’s research phase, non-invasive physical measures are recorded that include heart rate, blood pressure, muscle reflexes and a brain scan,” Lang said.
All participants in this study who are diagnosed with a mental disorder will be provided with a referral to a local treatment facility, and at their request, Lang and his team will forward to the clinic the interview findings.
“The goal of the research is to develop an understanding of the physiology of mental disorders …,” Lang said, “…and provide a neuro-physiological platform for the development of new more precise treatment interventions.”
HealthStreet, a community engagement program in the University of Florida, has helped Lang and his research team engage community members to learn more about his study.
“We very much appreciate the work of HealthStreet,” Lang said. “They significantly aid our efforts, as they have wide contact with the public of Alachua County, helping us recruit the broad range of participant required for our research.”