Sidestepping the placebo effect when studying depression
Research on depression must deal with a major obstacle: the placebo effect. This is the observation that patients improve in response to the sugar pills given as controls in clinical studies.
Clinical trial designers can incorporate various clever strategies to minimize the placebo effect, which is actually comprised of several statistical and psychological factors. Investigators can try to enhance, dissector even “harness” them.
Emory psychiatrist and NS faculty member, Andrew Miller, and his team have been developing a different approach over the last few years: studying symptoms of depression in people who are being treated for something else. This allows them to sidestep, at least partially, the cultural construct of depression, from William Styron to Peter Kramer to direct-to-consumer television ads.
Another NS faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Felger, is also featured in this story.