Participating in research

Photo of two researchers talking together

Depression treatments that are available today are the result of decades of research.

Research advances in depression occur only by virtue of the close collaboration between researchers and individuals who have experienced depression. By participating in research, you can obtain evaluation of your depression while teaming up with us to improve depression care.

Your participation can help further progress in depression treatment. Learn more about available treatment options here.

If you have not participated in a research study before, you may have a lot of questions. Here we answer some of the questions that people often ask.

We are happy to answer your questions about research. Contact our warm, expert staff.

What is research?

The purpose of a research study is to find a solution to a problem. DCRP research is dedicated to understanding the biological changes that occur in depression, developing new and more effective treatments for depression, and learning how to predict which treatment will work best for an individual person.

A clinical trial is a specific type of research study. Clinical trials investigate the safety and effectiveness of medical treatments, and help determine whether a treatment should be approved for the general population. In some clinical trials, participants give consent to be randomized to two or more different treatments in order for the effectiveness and tolerability of those treatments to be compared. Not all research involves a clinical trial. For example, some studies involve brain imaging (neuroimaging) or blood tests to better understand the causes of depression.

Why participate in research studies?

Participation in a research study plays a crucial role in helping us understand more about depression and its treatments. Participation in research may also benefit the participant directly.

Safety

The safety of study participants, who are also called study volunteers, is protected in several ways.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have created strict rules to guide human research. In accordance with these rules, all of our research studies are approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The purpose of IRB review is to ensure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of study participants. IRBs conduct a careful review of all research processes and documents to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of all subjects. The members of IRBs include clinicians, scientists, members of the community, and other knowledgeable individuals such as ethicists or clergymen.

Study participants meet with a study doctor, who is usually a psychiatrist or psychologist, regularly (usually once a week or once every two weeks). The doctor will ask participants questions about how they are feeling, discuss any concerns they may have, and may perform lab work (for example, blood samples or other physical examinations). If the doctor is concerned about a participant’s safety, he or she may refer the participant for evaluation or treatment outside of the study.

Personal and medical information about study volunteers is kept secure and confidential. Findings from research studies never identify individual study participants.

Eligibility

To volunteer for a research study, participants must be eligible, which means they meet the criteria and requirements of that study. Examples of eligibility criteria are:

  • Being on (or off) medication
  • Having tried (or not tried) certain medications before
  • Being male or female
  • Being of a certain age
  • Being of a particular ethnic/cultural background

Contact us to learn about studies you may be eligible for.

Randomization

In study randomization, participants give their consent to receive one of two or more different treatments. The group you are placed in is generally determined by chance—like a coin flip—rather than choice. This allows researchers to compare the true effectiveness and tolerability of two or more treatments. For example, people in one group (the “experimental” group) may be randomized to receive a new medication that is being studied, and participants in the other group (the “control” group) may receive another medication or a placebo.

Placebo

Placebo is an inactive substance that is sometimes called a “sugar pill.” Research compares the effects of placebo to the active medication to make sure the results are from the medication and not to other factors, such as a change in life stress or the opportunity to meet with a doctor regularly.

Why can’t I find out if I am receiving placebo?

If you know what you are taking, this knowledge may alter your perception of how you are feeling. If your doctor knows what you are taking, this may unconsciously alter the way your doctor rates your symptoms. For this reason, in most studies that involve placebo, neither you nor the doctor who evaluates you will know what you are taking during the study. Other study staff will be able to know what you are taking in case this information is needed for your medical care.