Department of Psychiatry
Penn Behavioral Health

Mood and Anxiety Disorders Treatment & Research Program

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Current Study Listings

We currently have many research studies offering treatments for individuals who have symptoms of depression.

Medication-Based Studies

Several of our medication-based studies are exploring the use of a new medication in combination with an already prescribed antidepressant medication. These studies are for individuals who have not received enough benefit from the antidepressant medications that they are currently taking.


Avanir:  AVP-786 (active drug) is an experimental drug being developed by Avanir Pharmaceuticals (the Sponsor of the study) for the treatment of depression in people who have not shown a sufficient improvement with standard antidepressant treatment. This study will help determine if AVP-786 helps improve the symptoms of depression, in other words if it is effective, if it is safe, and if it is well tolerated.

If you participate in this study, you will be in the study for maximum up to 98 days including 4 weeks of the screening period. You will take AVP-786 capsules or identical placebo capsules (both are called “study medication”), twice daily, for about two and a half months (70 days). A placebo is a study medication look-alike, but contains no real medicine. You will be allowed to continue taking your usual medications for depression while you are participating in this study.

Alkermes: The main purpose of this study is to see if the experimental drug ALKS 5461 helps treat depression when used together with an antidepressant medication. Other purposes of this study are to learn more about how safe ALKS 5461 is and how long it stays in the body.

The study drugs that will be given in this study are:

•        ALKS 5461 – an experimental drug

•        Placebo – a tablet that looks just like ALKS 5461 but has no active drug

Some people will already be on an antidepressant medication when they start the study. Other subjects will start a new antidepressant medication during the study. For subjects who stay on the same antidepressant medication that they have already been taking, the overall duration of the study will be about 16 weeks. For subjects who start a new antidepressant medication during the study, the overall duration of the study will be about 24 weeks.  The study is divided into 4 phases: Screening, Lead-In Period, Treatment Period, and Follow-Up Period.

We have a medication-based study for individuals with depression who are currently experiencing suicidal ideation.

Esketamine 2001: The purpose of this study is to compare the effects (both good and bad) of an experimental drug called esketamine to placebo on depression symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who are at immediate risk for suicide. Intranasal esketamine is also being tested in other studies in treatment resistant depression (TRD). TRD refers to depression which has not responded or been relieved sufficiently by more than one antidepressant medication.

Participants must be at immediate risk of suicide and needing hospitalization treatment.

Participants will be put into a treatment group by chance (like flipping a coin).  There are 2 groups in the treatment phase of this study: one group will receive intranasal (nose spray) placebo and the other group will receive intranasal (nose spray) esketamine.  The chance that you will get intranasal esketamine during the study is 1 out of 2.  The study is approximately 12 weeks long.  It requires you to spend roughly 5 days at the hospital and attend 10 additional visits.

Therapy-Based Studies

We are also offering two studies for the treatment of MDD, using computer-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT).  The computer program is called Good Days Ahead (GDA). It is a web-based multimedia program that provides 8 sessions of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, an effective psychotherapy for treatment of depression. GDA is designed to help people learn the basic principles of cognitive-behavior therapy and build skills to help reduce their depression. Typically, it takes a person 1 hour to complete each of the 8 sessions. Because GDA is an internet based therapy, it does not require a therapist to deliver the treatment so is less costly and can be more widely used.

BRAIN:  This is a pilot study evaluating Computer-assisted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT) and its impact on emotional circuitry in the brain as measured by functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) scans. Ten subjects ages 18 - 60 years old with a diagnosis of major depression will participate in CCBT (computer therapy program in addition to 6 brief sessions with a therapist)  over 12 weeks and will have an fMRI scanning before and after CCBT.

PRIME:  The purpose of this research study is to determine the effectiveness of computer-assisted cognitive-behavior therapy for the treatment of depression.  We want to learn whether people with HIV like the treatment and how it effects their depression.   Your involvement in the study will last between 9 and 17 weeks depending on the treatment group to which you are assigned. The entire study will take about 9 months to complete.   This study has two parts: screening/baseline and the 8-week CCBT treatment with Good Days Ahead.  Half of the participants will get CCBT immediately following the screening /baseline visit. The other half of participants will wait 8 weeks before starting CCBT.

Observational Studies

GeneSight Psychotropic: The purpose of this research study is to compare the impact of GeneSight genetic testing. Participants will be randomized  into two groups – 1) a group of subjects whose doctors receive GeneSight genetic testing to use in deciding the best medications for a person’s depression, and 2) a group of subjects whose doctors do not receive this information. “Randomization” means that you are put into a group by chance. It is like flipping a coin. Which group you are put in is determined by a computer program. You have a 50% chance of being placed in either group (like a coin toss). Neither you nor your study doctor can choose your study group and the study staff will not know to which group you are assigned. Your study doctor will know what group you are randomized to and can provide this information in case of an emergency.

You will be in the study for about 6 months (26 weeks). The study has three parts which include a screening period (first 2 weeks), a 12-week treatment period, and a 12 week extension follow-up period. You will have a total of 6 visits to the study clinic. Visit 1 will last approximately 2.5 hours, Visit 2 will last approximately 2 hours, and Visits 3-6 should last approximately 1.5 hours.

ORBIT: This study is being done to collect information related to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). You will be asked to complete questionnaires about your symptoms and functioning, information about your daily activity and sleep quality, and provide speaking samples that will allow us to examine your speech and voice characteristics. All of these factors will be examined to see if any of them can be used to predict worsening of depression at some future time.

You will be in the study for about 13 months. The study is designed to follow all subjects until a total of 150 people have had a relapse (when all the symptoms of depression return).  Based on when this number is achieved, there may be a chance that you will be asked to participate for longer than 13 months, or shorter than 13 months.

How to Participate in These Studies

In order for you to participate, you must first complete a pre-screen set of questionnaires to determine if you might benefit from one of these studies. You may complete this screening online by clicking here or you may call us at 215-898-4301 to complete a pre-screen telephone interview. Once this is completed, a study coordinator will either schedule you with one of our doctors or refer you to a more suitable treatment center.

If you do not qualify for one of our research studies now, we will keep your information so that we may contact you in the future about new studies.


We also collaborate on the following studies:

  • The Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program treats and studies sleep disorders, primarily insomnia.  We provide not only the highest standard of care for Insomnia (both with cognitive behavioral treatment of insomnia, CBT-I, and/or Pharmacotherapy) but also provide for a full spectrum of non-drug interventions for most of the non-medical sleep disorders.  For more information visit: or call 215-7-insomn (215-746-7666)

  • Mindfulness and Cognitive Therapy: We also collaborate with psychologists who are exploring the use of mindfulness in the treatment of acute health problems, depression and anxiety.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 215-898-4301.



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