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NewBridge Clients and Others Invited to Participate in Depression Study

Friday, November 19, 2021
Man in an MRI machine. New research on depression and learning by the Kessler Foundation uses an MRI machine.

Participate in Kessler Foundation research on depression and learning. Participants earn $125.

NewBridge Services is involved in new research on how depression influences learning.

Investigators at the Kessler Foundation are recruiting NewBridge adult clients and others diagnosed with major depressive disorder, or who have experienced any depression symptoms. Those include sadness or hopelessness, loss of energy, or an inability to enjoy pleasurable activities.

Participation involves several hours of neuropsychological testing. Subjects will spend 45 minutes answering word-pairing questions inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, said Julia McMillan, the study’s research assistant. Participants receive $125 for their time, estimated at four to five hours, she said.

“NewBridge is glad to have a role in shining a light on depression research,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. “It’s another way for NewBridge to support our communities.”

The five-year study is designed to determine if people with depression fare better at learning with delayed feedback, McMillan said. 

Depression Affects Brain Function

Feedback — both positive and negative — helps people learn. It is often provided immediately after an attempt at a task to underscore the connection to outcome, she explained. That learning mechanism involves the striatum, located within the basal ganglia deep in the brain. There’s evidence that depression and traumatic brain injury (TBI) affect brain structure and function and may impair learning involving the striatum.

“With depression, that type of learning may not be advantageous,” McMillan said.

When there is a lapse between a subject’s response to a question or requested action, a different part of the brain is used. “Reduced functioning in the fronto-striatal network and resultant impaired learning, as is seen in depression and TBI, can be potentially circumvented by altering the timing of feedback and activating the lentiform nucleus,” according to primary investigator Ekaterina Dobryakova.

Study Subjects

Researchers seek to recruit a total of 180 participants, 45 in each of the following categories:

  1. Physically healthy without depression
  2. Physically healthy with depression
  3. TBI without depression
  4. TBI with depression 

Adults ages 18 to 65 may contact Julia McMillan to be screened for enrollment in the study. If approved, participants would schedule a day to undergo testing at the foundation’s research center in West Orange. McMillan can be reached at JMcMillan@KesslerFoundation.org or 973-323-3684.

If you need help dealing with depression, contact NewBridge Services at services@newbridge.org or 973-316-9333.

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