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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Mood Brain & Development Unit (MBDU) Mood Brain & Development Unit (MBDU)

Mood Brain & Development Unit (MBDU)

Images of brain highlighting activity

Led by Argyris Stringaris MD, PhD, FRCPsych, the Mood Brain & Development Unit uses neuroimaging and computational methodology in order to improve the recognition and treatment of adolescents with depression. For this purpose, we have a clinical service that includes an inpatient unit dedicated to the research and treatment of adolescent depression and related conditions. The clinical service includes in-depth assessment as well as outpatient and inpatient treatment of depression.

The focus of our laboratory is on reward processing in adolescent depression, which we study using a range of methods: from computational modeling of behavior to neuroimaging methods such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), and stimulation with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

Methodologically, we try to combine the following:

Longitudinal designs: These help us to establish the direction of effects, an important part of trying to understand causes of depression in youth.

Computational approaches: These are being increasingly used as a means to derive parameters from models of our conception of psychological states, brain mechanisms and their interactions with the environment.

Neuroimaging: Using methods such as fMRI, EEG and MEG we are better able to understand neural mechanisms that may differ between people with and without depression in an effort to better understand how depression emerges in adolescence and test the impact of treatments.

Interventions: Treatments affect mood by changing brain mechanisms. Thus, they are important for assessing causal processes in people with depression. We use both pharmacological and psychological treatments with the goal of improving treatments for adolescent depression. We are also interested in the treatment potential of TMS.

Please see our Unit’s publications for more information.


Picture of doctor Argyris Stringaris

Dr Stringaris Promoted to Senior Investigator (tenured) at NIMH

Picture of doctor Pablo Vidal-Ribas

Dr Vidal-Ribas Awarded King’s College London Outstanding PhD Thesis Prize and the 2020 Society of Biological Psychiatry Travel Fellowship Award

Dr. Pablo Vidal-Ribas was awarded one of the 2019 King's Outstanding PhD Thesis Prizes sponsored by Elsevier and King’s College London (KCL) for his thesis titled “Trajectories, cognitive mechanisms, and treatment response of irritability in children and adolescents”. Only 15 prizes are awarded across the year among all KCL faculties. Dr Vidal-Ribas completed his doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (KCL) in London (UK) under the supervision of Professor Andrew Pickles and Dr Argyris Stringaris. His thesis included research conducted both at KCL and at MBDU (NIMH) during his 2-year placement, thanks to the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) hosted by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE), and a Pre-Doctoral Supplemental NIH Fellowship Award.

He was also selected as a recipient of one of the SOBP Travel Fellowship Award for the 2020 annual meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP) taking place in New York on April 30-May 2, 2020. Dr Vidal-Ribas was selected among 360 applicants based on past excellence in scholarly work, potential for scholarly growth in biological psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, and overall excellence. This award will allow Dr Vidal-Ribas to attend the meeting and participate in several activities with other early career investigators and other senior researchers. In addition, he will be presenting data on neuroimaging correlates of suicidality in school-aged children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study.

Group picture of DC Hackaton participants

Dr Nielson Organized DC Hackathon

Our own Dr. Dylan Nielson worked with Dr. Bob Cox and the AFNI team and Dr. Adam Thomas and his Data Science and sharing team to organize and host the 2019 DC Code Convergence, which was held 11-15 Nov 2019 just outside the NIH campus. Twenty-two leaders in the open neuroscience tools community collaborated with intramural researchers/developers in a week-long code sprint focused on the NIH brain image analysis package AFNI. Major progress was made on a 16 different projects ( addressing a broad range of needs in the neuroimaging community. Some of these projects were about improving the usability of existing techniques, such as “Optimization and Wrapper for Spatio-Temporal Clustering in fMRI” (, which will result in new capabilities added to AFNI. Other projects were about improving the usability of the software, such as “AFNI software distribution using Conda” (, which is another step in towards the goal of making AFNI installable with a single command. Other projects developed novel solutions to difficult problems, such as “Finding Your Center” (, which tackled the question of how to efficiently find a representative “center” of the types of complex non-convex 3-D structures found in neuroimaging, in which the center of mass may lie outside of the object. Perhaps the most valuable result of the meeting was simply getting everyone in the same room so that simple questions could be answered quickly and “quick” questions could trigger the in depth conversations that are often the source of inspiration and advance.

Dr Delonga presenting at ABCT convention

Dr Delonga Presented at ABCT Convention

Dr. DeLonga presented on the neurobiology of depression and participated on a clinical roundtable panel at the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 2019. Dr. DeLonga highlighted the work we are doing in our outpatient program integrating Behavioral Activation and innovation in the treatment of adolescent depression.