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Mood Brain & Development Unit

Mood Brain & Development Unit (MBDU)

Group photo of Mood Brain & Development Unit

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.


Dr Stringaris Awarded Klerman Prize

Photo of Argyris Stringaris, MD, PhD, Chief of Mood Brain and Development Unit in the Emotion and Development Branch of NIMH IRP.Dr Argyris Stringaris was awarded the 2019 Gerald L Klerman Young Investigator (under 45 years) Prize, the highest honor that the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance gives to members of the scientific community. Presented each year, this award recognizes researchers whose work advances knowledge of the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. The award will be presented at a special ceremony in May at the 2019 American Psychiatric Association Conference.

Lab Alumna Awarded NSF Fellowship

Ms. Jamila Silver, an alumna of MBDU, was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. In her own words:

Jamila Silver

Jamila Silver

"I have been fortunate enough to be accepted into the PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Stony Brook University, and to be awarded the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). Obtaining a PhD in Clinical Psychology will provide me with the training and experiences necessary to conduct research aimed at understanding and identifying risk factors that contribute to the early onset of depression. The NSF GRFP offers substantial financial support and opportunities for international research experience and professional development throughout my graduate studies.

Though the application process was strenuous, I believe gaining valuable and diverse research experiences is what allowed me to be successful. Throughout my undergraduate career, I worked in multiple research labs and gained a variety of experiences within each lab. Working with different populations and in different settings allowed me to learn the processes of conducting research and allowed me to refine my own research and clinical interests.

More specifically, working as a summer intern at the National Institute of Mental Health in the Mood Brain and Development Unit was an instrumental part of my success. At NIMH, I gained extensive hands on research and clinical experience while exploring which aspects of developmental and neurobiological processes underlying depression and psychopathological development were of most interest to me.

Having a breadth of research experiences was pivotal to my success in applying to PhD programs and to being awarded the NSF GFRP. Having a more developed sense of what I wanted to research and gaining valuable knowledge in how to design and conduct research made my applications much stronger."

Lab Alumna Received Doctorate

Selina Wolke, a PhD student in the lab, was recently awarded a Doctorate:

Selina Wolke

Selina Wolke

I am very happy to announce that I have been accepted for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Royal Holloway University, London. I completed my PhD in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, under the supervision of Dr Argyris Stringaris and Prof Mitul Mehta.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the Mood Brain & Development Unit (MBDU) in the third year of my PhD. It was a great opportunity to work within a stimulating group of research and clinical teams. I am particularly grateful for the enthusiastic and lively discussions at our weekly science meetings. I had the support of a fantastic research team, and learnt to integrate a variety of statistical methods. I was particularly impressed by the integrity and high standards of neuroimaging research and their innovative application to understanding mechanisms in illness and health. This certainly facilitated my research project investigating the pharmacological modulation of reward and penalty processes across the risk spectrum of depression and anhedonia.

I am looking forward to the next step of my professional training at Royal Holloway and I am motivated to further develop my research and clinical skills through hard-work, reflective practice and with the guidance of experts in the field. I feel that what has helped me enter into the Clinical Psychology program is several years of experience and learning around excellent research-clinicians in the mood team (Michael Rutter Centre, King’s College London) and NIH, taking a lead role in the neuroimaging study (PhD), and gaining increasingly more responsibility in assessment, formulation and treatment. I also feel that taking several months to travel after the PhD was important for resting, getting a broader perspective and impression of what qualities are important in clinical work and working with different cultures. I very much look forward to re-uniting with my team at the NIH, and hope to return as a guest speaker with some interesting findings soon!

Summer Intern Presented at SOBP Conference

Ms. Anna Kondylis, a high school summer intern, recently presented at the SOBP Conference in Chicago, Illinois:

Anna Kondylis

Anna Kondylis

I presented a poster at the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP) conference in May of 2019. My poster was the product of my work as a summer intern and a special volunteer at the Mood, Brain & Development Unit. I worked under the guidance of Dr. Argyris Stringaris and Dr. Narun Pornpattananangkul on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) database, a longitudinal study that scans over 10,000 children ages 9-10 for approximately 10 years.

The first goal for this project was to create a pipeline for the ABCD dataset that downloads raw data to the NIH Biowulf server, organizes the data into the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS), and generates a report for quality control of the data using MRIQC. We were successful in creating the pipeline which can now be found on GitHub:

The second goal was to determine whether or not adult quality control thresholds could be applied to child data. We found that using an adult 0.2-mm Framewise Displacement cutoff resulted in the removal of 42.81% of the total subjects. As a point of reference, the same cutoff point resulted in the removal of approximately 17% of the total subjects in the adult UK Biobank dataset.

During the SOBP poster conference, I particularly enjoyed answering the questions of researchers who had been working on the ABCD data. Their questions were very specific and helped me understand some of the aspects of the project that I had not previously discussed with my mentors. Several of the questions concerned the difficulties of working with large datasets and how to overcome these obstacles, a concept that I also had to address when working on the pipeline. I really liked the whole experience and want to continue my work so as to have the opportunity to present again in a future conference.

MBDU IRTAs Win Outstanding Poster Awards

Research Assistants Katy Chang and Kenzie Jackson have won Outstanding Poster Awards at the annual Postbac Poster Day on behalf of the Office of Intramural Training and Education. Out of 833 posters presented at Poster Day, 196 were recognized as outstanding based on high scores received during the judging process.

Katy Chang and Kenzie Jackson

Katy Chang and Kenzie Jackson

Here’s what Katy had to say: “I presented a poster on the Mood-Machine Interface (MMI), a novel task developed at the MBDU lab that uses reward prediction errors to stabilize mood using a closed-loop algorithm. Though the process of researching this topic has been challenging, it has also been highly rewarding; my experiences working with our MMI data have provided me with valuable research skills. This Poster Award is a testament both to the presentation of the poster, but also the immensity of the work done by all members of our lab and the important contributions of our participants!”

Here’s what Kenzie had to say: “My presentation was about the MID, or Monetary Incentive Delay, a reward processing task. We have administered this task longitudinally, with individuals coming back to complete the scan four times annually. Administering this task repeatedly among adolescents is novel, and it has been very exciting to be a part of analyzing reward processing over time. I am grateful for the Outstanding Poster Award, but I recognize that it is all thanks to the mentorship in this group as well as our incredible participants who take the time to contribute to this work. There is much still to be done, and I am excited to see what we learn in the process!”