Recent studies show that neural activation during anticipation to perform cognitive or emotional tasks determines the quality of task performance. Individuals with unipolar depression (UDd) and individuals with bipolar depression (BDd) often experience impairment in emotion processing, as well as episodic and working memory. One reason for such impairment may be the inability of depressed individuals to efficiently prepare for upcoming tasks. This project will pioneer research on the relationship between anticipatory brain activation preceding episodic and working memory tasks, brain activation during task performance and behavioral performance in UDd vs. BDd vs. healthy controls (HC). Distinguishing unipolar from bipolar depression is critically important to optimizing treatments fo those who suffer from these disorders, and yet reliably differentiating them from one another remains challenging in clinical practice. For example, about 60% of BDd are initially misdiagnosed with unipolar depression, which results in inappropriate or delayed treatment and concomitant worsening of symptomatic and functional outcomes. Therefore, studying the patterns of neural activation that differentiate these two groups is a critically important step toward identifying biomarkers that can help improve diagnostic accuracy as early as possible. To examine the extent to which UDd and BDd differ in their neural activity during task anticipation, a variety of converging methods will be employed: behavioral (reaction time and accuracy), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Furthermore, the use of advanced methods of neuroimaging data analysis (e.g., multi-voxel pattern classification) will improve the chances to detect the differences between the two diagnostic groups.
The first aim of the proposed work is to characterize brain activity during anticipation to encode and encoding of positive emotional, negative emotional and neutral stimuli in UDd vs. BDd vs. HC.
The second aim i s to understand how anticipatory brain activation during preparation for emotional working memory tasks of different levels of difficulty influences neural and behavioral correlates of task performance in UDd vs. BDd vs. HC.
The third aim i s to explore whether and how NIRS activity during preparation to encode, encoding and retrieval of emotional stimuli characterizes UDd vs. BDd vs. HC. Given that NIRS is portable, it can potentially be used in clinical settings to help in diagnostic decision-making. Findings from the proposed research will deepen our understanding of functional abnormalities in neural systems underlying emotion and cognitive impairments in UDd and BDd. They may also ultimately help identify biomarkers that distinguish UDd from BDd, and help provide targets to tailor intervention programs to alleviate cognitive and emotion deficits, and to enhance quality of life for these individuals. As a Principal Investigator on this project I have strong commitment to health-oriented research. My research career in psychology began more than 15 years ago in Russia where I studied the role of sports career in able body and Paralympic athletes. I continued my research at Rutgers University - Newark (as a graduate student with Dr. Hanson), where I learned about fMRI research and advanced methods of the fMRI data analysis, then at Carnegie Mellon University (as a post-doctoral researcher with Dr. Reder), and finally, at the University of Pittsburgh (as a post-doctoral researcher with Dr. Phillips). My long term career goals are to develop expertise in understanding the extent to which abnormalities in neural systems supporting emotion regulation and cognitive functioning (working memory, episodic memory) underlie emotion and cognitive impairment in individuals with mood disorders, and to become an independent clinical neuroscientist specializing in multimodal neuroimaging research of mood disorders. My expertise in cognitive neuroscience and advanced methods of data analysis is well documented by the publications in peer-reviewed journals. However, to be able to conduct clinical neuroscience research and to be able to interpret findings resulting from that research, I need to develop the understanding of adult psychopathology, which requires additional training in clinical psychology, psychiatry and neuroimaging of clinical population. I propose to receive such training through formal coursework, weekly meetings and didactics with mentors, directed readings and training with expert consultants, and participation in scientific conferences. I have assembled a team of mentors and consultants who represent expertise in each of the areas in which I will need training in order to meet my career development goals: functional neuroimaging markers of unipolar and bipolar depression (Phillips, Altshuler), clinical assessment and treatment of UDd and BDd (Frank), cognitive functioning of UDd and BDd (Gildengers), near-infrared spectroscopy (Huppert). During my research and training at the University of Pittsburgh, I will have access to the Magnetic Resonance Research Center (MRRC) with a 3T neuroimaging scanner, to the NIRS equipment, to extensive computer facility at the MRRC, and the help of experienced MR technicians, trained in research-related fMRI. These resources, combined with those at the Department of Psychiatry and with the expertise provided by my mentors and consultants, create an ideal environment for both successful training and the successful completion of the proposed research project.
The ability to prepare for emotional and cognitive tasks is critical to our daily life. The fact that individuals with unipolar depression and bipolar disorderare impaired on performance of emotional and cognitive tasks may be related to their inability to prepare for these tasks. This project aims to compare brain mechanisms of task anticipation in depressed individuals with unipolar and bipolar disorder, thereby targeting identification of potential brain biomarkers for these disorders, and facilitating the development of appropriately targeted treatment strategies.
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