$2.7 million grant for psychological sciences research

Amber Selfridge

Professors in the department of psychological sciences will receive a $2.7 million grant. The grant will be used to help better understand psychological risks and treatments.

“This is a project where we are aiming to better understand risk, like depression and anxiety. These are disorders that often emerge within the context of stress and so we are looking to better understand how emotion processing influences risk,” said professor and investigator, Karin Coifman.

Receiving a grant of this size took over four years and several stages of review of the proposal.

“This is research that I have been doing for a long time, since about 2001. This particular proposal took about four years because of the review and then also the process of getting pilot data and recruiting people and the feasibility of it all,” Coifman said.

The entire process was based off a proposal that Coifman and the other scientists working on the project put together.

“It’s a study of psychological risk and following what we would consider a potentially traumatic event. This has been a focus of research for a long time, mostly because we have this problem of not being able to pick out who needs help and who doesn’t,” Coifman said.

After evidence was provided and the proposal showed that they had evidence for the work to be done, it went through four review sessions conducted by peer scientists. This certain proposal went through four rounds of review before it was good to be sent to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH scientists then make sure that the project fits within the institute and that it does not overlap with any existing projects that are being funded. After all of this, the NIH decided they will fund it.

The money does not get sent straight to the scientists working on the project, it is sent to the university and then they distribute it.

This particular grant will be used over a five-year period.

“It’s a five year grant because we follow participants for 18 months. We can’t run everyone at the same time, so the goal is in the first year we will recruit about 75 participants and then the next year more and so on. We recruit participants through the first three and a half years and then the remaining time is for the follow-up data collection,” Coifman said.

The patients participating will be taken from Summa Health System and have been chosen to help understand and identify persistent psychological diseases. 

“This is a study where we are recruiting a particular population of people who are at risk, by virtue of the fact of having this significant physical injury happen to them. The hope is to look at some of these emotion processing patterns, early in adjustment to their injury and follow them over a period of time to see if we can better understand who really needs help and who doesn’t,” Coifman said.

One of the scientists working with Coifman is professor Doug Delahanty.

Delahanty explained that the project will hopefully be used to improve the quality of life for those in need.

“I think that there have been a lot of changes over time. The whole goal always is to figure out how to improve the quality of life for individuals who have had bad things happen to them. There is a constant interest in how do we best identify and then best treat individuals who have had something bad happen to them and who are at risk for persistent symptoms,” Delahanty said.

Coifman hopes that this project will help them understand the path to disease after a traumatic injury.

“The more we can understand the path to disease, which is what I am trying to model in this grant, the better that will be for developing treatments that can help those in need,” Coifman said.

The research and science done for the proposal was completed with the help from students.

“Research is a team effort and so there are other faculty, there are lots of students that help us with this work. There are countless students that have contributed to the kinds of science that have led to this grant and that will certainly be important to the execution of this project,” Coifman said.

Amber Selfridge is the social science reporter. Contact her at [email protected].