Maria Ironside, DPhil, investigates the neurobiological mechanisms underlying depression and anxiety disorders. Her doctoral work explored the mechanisms of action of a novel antidepressant treatment-transcranial direct current stimulation-using cognitive neuropsychological tasks, stress hormone measures and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The ultimate aim of this work is to establish biomarkers of treatment response which could aid future treatment selection.
At McLean, Dr. Ironside is working on two, five-year projects examining the the effects of stress and sex steroid hormones on reward learning and anhedonia in depression. These projects take a multimodal approach with fMRI, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), position emission tomography (PET), as well as measures of various hormone, genetic, and inflammatory markers. The focus of this research is to build a detailed neurological profile of the (gender-dependent) effects of stress on reward learning, anhedonia, and depression to establish multidimensional targets for treatment.