Approximately $1 million NIMH grant award will further postpartum depression studies

Kristina Deligiannidis, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics & Gynecology and Director, Depression Specialty Clinic, was recently awarded a prestigious NIH mentored research career development award (K23) from the NIH/NIMH. In 2012 the NIH reviewed 555 K23 career development award applications, of which 35 were awarded by the NIH/NIMH.

DeligiannidisThe five year award of approx. $1 million will investigate potential neuroendocrine and neuroimaging endophenotypes in postpartum depression. As part of the K23 award, Dr. Deligiannidis will acquire advanced training (UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, NIMH, and Harvard) which will focus on reproductive and behavioral endocrinology and neuroimaging to study interactions of the reproductive endocrine system on neural circuitry in depression.

Drs. Anthony J. Rothschild (Center for Psychopharmacologic Research & Treatment) and Constance M. Moore (Center for Comparative Neuroimaging) from UMMS, Department of Psychiatry are primary mentors for the grant. Secondary mentors include Drs. Peter Schmidt (NIMH), Blaise Frederick (Harvard/McLean) and Janet Hall (Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital). Drs. Scott Shaffer (UMMS, Proteomic & Mass Spectrometry Facility) and Bruce Barton (UMMS, Quantitative Health Sciences) serve as contributors to the grant.

Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 1 in 8 women and significantly impairs mother and infant. PPD negatively impacts infant attachment, development and behavior: PPD can be fatal as maternal suicide accounts for up to 20% of postpartum deaths in depressed women. Emerging evidence suggests that biological factors, including female sex hormones, contribute to the pathophysiology of PPD: Dr. Deligiannidis will use hormone and brain imaging investigations to learn why women develop PPD so to develop ways to identify which women are at high risk of developing the disorder and develop early interventions to prevent PPD before it develops.

Dr. Deligiannidis is a psychiatrist who conducts translational depression research in the Center for Psychopharmacologic Research & Treatment (CPRT) and treats women with depressive and anxiety disorders in the Women’s Mental Health Specialty Clinic. She is a 2004 graduate of UMMS and 2009 graduate of the UMMS-UMMHC Adult Psychiatry Residency Program.