Monthly meetings of the Center for Psychiatric Research are filled with promise that groundbreaking research may ultimately improve the lives of those living with mental illness. We recently spoke with Dr. Daniel Price, Clerkship Director for Psychiatry at Maine Medical Center with an office at McGeachey Hall Medical Center, Portland who is in the midst of a five-year study* on the impact of vasopressin that may prove useful in the treatment of autism, schizophrenia and depression/anxiety.
Sure, you’re thinking “vaso…what?” As Dr. Price explained it, “Vasopressin is a nonapeptide (a nine amino-acid molecule) that is released into the body by the pituitary as a hormone that regulates water metabolism. It is an FDA-approved drug for Diabetes Insipidus and abdominal distension. However, it is also released within the brain where it can regulate emotions and social interactions. It is these latter effects which we are studying.”
Research first began by studying voles (think of a stubby looking mouse) and has moved to humans. Dr. Price serves as the medical monitor to make sure all human subjects are physically sound and understand the impact of the testing. The study is being managed through Bowdoin under the direction of Professor Rick Thompson and Dr. Price was identified as an ideal partner.
“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” described Dr. Price. “I’m very pleased that Maine Medical Center was able to facilitate my role through the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI). I can’t understate the importance of MMCRI in providing great coordinators who are the workhorses of the study and this collaborative effort with Bowdoin.”
The medical portion of the study takes place at McGeachey where subjects aged 18 to 30 years volunteer to participate during three, day-long trials. During the testing, participants are given either a placebo, or the drug, and asked to view a series of socially relevant photos. Subjects are “hooked up” to a monitor that is similar to a lie-detector where their responses are documented. The study will conclude this summer and will ultimately include findings from 250 subjects. Results will be analyzed well beyond that timeframe.
Volunteer subjects are being recruited and participation does include some compensation.
FMI: Contact Anna Cloutier, Study Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 396-8304
This IRB-approved study was made possible through a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant.