Stanford’s Pediatric Emotional an Resilience Lab (PEARL) is currently seeking youth ages 12-17 years who experience anxiety and/or depression and have family members living with serious mood symptoms to participate in the Arousal Induced Medication Study (AIMS).
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed medications used by American youth today to treat a variety of childhood onset psychiatric disorders. However, serious psychiatric adverse events may also emerge from antidepressant use including irritability, agitation, elevated mood, and other adverse events associated with increased dysfunctional emotional arousal. For some youth, these adverse events lead to the development of lifelong psychopathologies such as bipolar disorder.
Youth who are highly likely to develop adverse responses to antidepressants are those who are already vulnerable to developing dysfunctional emotional arousal. Studies have shown that youth with a family history of bipolar disorder have high rates of major mood and other disorders of emotional arousal, and demonstrate early disruptions of neurobiological systems critical for the regulation of emotional arousal, most notably in the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) neural circuit. Antidepressants are commonly used to treat dysfunctional emotional arousal in high-risk youth; however, they may also increase and accelerate the onset of mood disorders in some of these youth. Participants will be randomized to receive double-blind treatment either with psychotherapy plus escitalopram (Lexapro) or psychotherapy plus placebo.
AIMS offers a 16-week medication trial with weekly check-ins involving clinical assessments and MRI brain scans. Participants receive $15-100 per week and receive no-cost evidence-based individual and family therapy.