Stony Brook Researchers Receive Grant to Study Links between Personality Development and Vulnerability to Depression

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science have teamed up with scientists from the Department of Psychology to study how personality development is associated with vulnerability to depression in adolescent girls.

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Roman Kotov, PhD will be the principle investigator for the project which is funded by a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Drs. Daniel Klein and Greg Hajcak from the Department of Psychology and Dr. Joan Broderick from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science will serve as co-investigators. The study is part of a long-range effort by the NIMH to develop new methods for preventing depression.

“We hope to answer some long-standing questions about how personality development is associated with depression,” Dr. Klein said. “Dr. Kotov’s studies and others have shown that there is a link between personality traits and mental health, but we do not know whether personality changes are the cause or effect of depression, or if both are the result of something else. Answering these questions will help us develop tools to screen for risk.”

The research team plans to recruit 575 adolescent girls who have never experienced an episode of major depression. They will follow the young women closely for three years, assessing psychological, neural and hormonal factors which may be involved. They plan to take a finer grained look at personality traits than is typical of most studies, looking at how various facets of personality interact with life events over time.

“Adolescence is the time when many changes in personality occur,” Dr. Kotov said. “It is also the time when mood disorders are most likely to emerge. This study will help us to understand how personality development and mental health are related. We hope that the knowledge we gain will suggest hypotheses for developing personalized and targeted preventive interventions.”