Translational Research & Psychiatry

Translational research is the integration of basic science, clinical research and population-based research with the aim of improving the health of the public. In a medical context, this kind of research aims to translate scientific findings into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes. Enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community is also an important part of translational science.

Research Areas

Translational research in the Department of Psychiatry is strategically focused on three critical areas in mental health: mood, stress and addiction disorders. The faculty use rapidly advancing technologies like neuroimaging and genetic techniques integrated with the outcomes of innovative clinical trials to guide the creation of brain-based models and help the team formulate novel treatment interventions for patients.

Clinical Research

People volunteer to participate in clinical research — carefully conducted investigations that ultimately uncover better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose and understand human disease. Clinical trials offer hope for many people and help researchers find better treatments for others in the future. People participate in mental health clinical trials for a number of reasons. Health volunteers may participate to help others and to contribute to moving science forward. Participants with a mental illness may join a study to help others or to receive the newest treatment and additional care and attention from the clinical staff.

How does a clinical study work?

A clinical study is conducted according to a plan known as a protocol. The protocol is carefully designed to safeguard the participants’ health. A clinical study protocol will describe who is eligible to participate in the trial, provide details about the tests and procedures to be used, define the length of the study and clarify the information to be gathered. A clinical study is led by a principal investigator (PI), often a doctor, who is trained to conduct clinical research. Prior to beginning a clinical study, the PI must first obtain approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that the risks are minimal and are worth any potential benefits. Throughout the study, members of the research team regularly monitor the participants’ health to determine the study’s safety and effectiveness. Clinical studies can be sponsored or funded by various organizations or individuals, including physicians, foundations, medical institutions, voluntary groups, and pharmaceutical companies, as well as federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is informed consent?

Informed consent is the process of learning the key facts about a clinical study before deciding whether to participate. The research team will take the time to explain important details about the study. All potential participants receive an informed consent document that explains the purpose of the study, its duration, required procedures, and whom to contact for questions or concerns. The informed consent document will also explain risks and potential benefits. If the participant decides to enroll in the trial, the informed consent document will be signed. Informed consent is not a contract. Volunteers are free to withdraw from a clinical study at any time.

Does clinical research make a difference?

Scientific advances in mental health care have been possible only because of participation of volunteers, both healthy and those diagnosed with an illness, in clinical research. Clinical research allows us to ask questions and test ideas about how to best diagnose, present, treat or cure disease and disability. Clinical study participation of volunteers is essential to helping us find these answers.