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Mood Disorders Program

The objective of the Mood Disorders Program (MDP) is to offer the best possible treatments, proven by research, for individuals coping with mood disorders. The MDP offers comprehensive inpatient (24 beds) and outpatient clinical services.  We work closely with other mental health services at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton including the Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre and the Women's Health Concerns Clinic to best serve the specific individual needs. We also aim to promote McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton academic mission by integrating academic and clinical activities through research and education.



Research in the Mood Disorders Program involves studies aimed at furthering our understanding of factors leading to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders, as well as the development and evaluation of new assessment methods and treatment approaches.   Research in the Mood Disorders Program spans the cognitive, psychological and biological underpinnings of depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD.

A major focus of research in the Program is the development of novel treatment interventions aimed at reducing the devastating impact of these disorders.   The overall goal of this research is to improve quality of life and treatment outcomes in individuals struggling with mood disorders.

Example projects include:

  • Neural and behavioural correlates of autobiographical memory for highly traumatic events in patients with mood disorders and/ or PTSD
  • Social cognition in patients with mood disorders and/or PTSD
  • Brain imaging and peripheral biomarkers as predictors of treatment response in depression
  • Brain correlates of bipolar Disorder and co-morbid premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Cerebral cortical myelin mapping in bipolar disorder
  • Brain-blood barrier disruption in bipolar disorder
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for major depressive disorder.
  • Running group: Clinical and biological markers of response to exercise in depression
  • Out of the blues: A behavioural activation study in depression
  • The efficacy of a transdiagnostic behaviour therapy intervention for anxiety disorders.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for OCD: Augmenting the effects of CBT.
  • An imaging study to understand brain chemistry and brain activity in pediatric OCD – Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network site.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in unipolar and bipolar depression.
  • Self-care for healthcare professionals: Building resilience of employees using mindfulness-based interventions.
  • A prospective cohort study investigating the determinants of methadone treatment outcomes in patients with opioid addiction
  • A case control study of suicidal behaviour risk factors
  • A randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of behavioural activation therapy for the treatment of depression
  • Knowledge synthesis studies comparing multiple treatment options for opioid addiction
  • Sleep quality in inpatients pre- and post-introduction of private rooms 

Application to Consumer

Mood disorders affect a significant portion of the Canadian population, estimated at 4 to 5 percent of all Canadians yearly, with associated societal and economic costs. Indeed, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is associated with decreases in workplace productivity, loss of income, and high healthcare costs, impacting aversely the Canadian economy.  A recent key report (Opening Eyes, Opening Minds: The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness and Addictions Report.  An ICES/PHO Report) indicates that, among all mental illness, depression has the highest impact on the life and health of Ontarians, with disease burden exceeding that of lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Longitudinally, depression and bipolar disorder result in reduced educational outcomes and gradually widening economic gaps among sufferers, pointing towards an urgent need to identify factors associated with the development and maintenance of mood disorders, and to intervene early in the course of illness.  These intervention efforts will be aided by the identification of novel, evidence-based interventions, including those under development in the Mood Disorders Program. 

Other Faculty

  • Peter Bieling, PhD, CPsych
  • Benicio N. Frey, MD, MSc, PhD
    • Cerebral mechanisms involved in the neurobiology of bipolar and major depressive disorder, with an emphasis in female-related psychiatric conditions. Brain imaging and blood biomarkers as predictors of treatment response in mood disorders.
  • Gary Hasey, PhD, CPsych
    • Using machine learning analysis of EEG data to establish psychiatric diagnosis and to determine optimal treatment. Transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for major depressive disorder.
  • Brenda Key, PhD, CPsych
    • Development and evaluation of interventions that integrate cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness based therapies (MBTs) for patients with anxiety and mood disorders Mechanisms of change in CBT and MBTs such as changes in rumination, meta-cognition and emotion regulation 
  • Lawrence Martin, MD
  • Margaret McKinnon, PhD, CPsych
    • Effects of trauma exposure and mood on social functioning and memory for life events.
    • Cognitive remediation in MDD and PTSD
  • Luciano Minuzzi, MD, PhD
    • Brain neurotransmission in mood disorders and its clinical implications for treatment and prevention. The interface between hormonal changes and mood disorders.
  • Zena Samaan, MD, PhD
    • Genetics of psychopathology and medicine/psychiatric comorbidities.
  • Roberto Sassi, MD, PhD
    • Biological correlates of child psychopathology, in particular mood disorders.
  • Mark Rhino, MD
  • Vimala Chinnasamy, MD

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