The major focus of the Center for Psychiatric Research is on uncovering the biological underpinnings of psychiatric disease and behavioral dysfunction including, for example, investigating genetic risk factors underlying neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. This may be best exemplified by the Autism & Developmental Disorders Inpatient Research Collaborative (ADDIRC). Led by Dr. Matt Siegel, ADDIRC is a multi-site collaborative effort involving six specialized child psychiatry inpatient units treating children with severe autism and developmental disabilities.
Center investigators are also gathering perceptions by youth on what symptoms of mental illness mean to them in the Mental Health Attitudes of Youth (May) study, and investigating the development and determinants of insight in adolescents requiring hospitalization for a psychotic break.
The state funded Now Is The Time Study is focused on identification and early intervention with youth who are at risk for developing psychosis. This is the current incarnation of the PIER study, the Portland Identification and Early Referral Study, that for 12 years was instrumental in helping Maine youth avoid the onset of psychosis or achieve very positive outcomes when treated for an early first episode of psychosis. In fact, the original PIER Program achieved national prominence as a model program for preventing onset of psychotic and severe mood disorders in adolescents and young adults through community outreach and education, and multi-family group interventions.
New studies just getting underway include an investigation of the safety and efficacy of ECT for treating geriatric patients with advanced dementia with behavioral disturbance, and an investigation of the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in post-myocardial infarction depression.