Depression, Adversity, & Stress Hormones Study

Detailed Study Description

Thank you for your interest in the DASH Study!

We are no longer enrolling participants for this study.


If you are eligible for the study, you will complete 4 days of Home Saliva Collection and attend 7 study sessions at the UW Department of Psychiatry, located at 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI. Some of the session times are flexible, while others are not.  Most of the sessions must occur in the late afternoon/early evening. The study takes approximately 2 months to complete.

Phone Screening

Basic eligibility screening for the study is completed during a 30 to 40 minute phone screening interview.  During the phone screening we ask questions about your physical and mental health, medications, and personal habits, such as smoking and drinking.

Visit 1: Screening Session

Visit 1 lasts approximately 3 to 5 hours and typically takes place on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons.  During this visit, we determine whether you are eligible to continue in the study. You answer questions about your physical and mental health, as well as questions about your early life experiences, including whether you were exposed to trauma or adversity as a child. You also have a brief medical exam and complete urine drug and pregnancy tests.

Visit 2: MRI Simulation (“Mock Scan”)

Visit 2 lasts approximately 3 hours. The timing of this visit is flexible and can take place after work hours, if necessary. The mock scan allows you to hear the noises that are present during the actual scan and practice the task that you will be doing in the scanner. In addition to the mock scan, you complete several questionnaires, primarily about your feelings and mood.

Visits 3 & 5: fMRI Scans (Hydrocortisone or Placebo Pill)

Visits 3 and 5 each last approximately 4.5 hours and are spaced 1 week apart. They begin at 4:10 pm and must occur on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Visits 3 and 5 involve fMRI scanning and taking a pill that contains either a low dose of hydrocortisone (up to 20 mg) or placebo (a sugar-like substance). During the scans, you view emotional and neutral pictures.  You also complete questionnaires and collect small saliva samples and blood samples. After each scanning session you complete 4 additional saliva samples at home.

Visits 4 & 6: Memory Sessions

Visits 4 and 6 each last approximately 2 hours. They take place 2 days after each scanning session on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday after 4:00 pm. These visits involve several cognitive tasks, including tasks during which we ask you to remember the emotional and neutral pictures you viewed in the scanning sessions. You also complete questionnaires that ask about your feelings and mood.

Home Saliva Collection

Between Visit 6 and Visit 7, you complete 4 days of saliva collection at home.  The saliva collection takes approximately 15 minutes per day.  On the evening before your last day of saliva collection, you take a pill that contains a low dose of dexamethasone (0.25 mg).  This allows us to examine how efficiently your body regulates the hormone cortisol.

Visit 7: One Month Follow-Up

Visit 7 lasts approximately 2 hours and takes place approximately 1 month after Visit 6. During this session, you complete follow-up questionnaires about your feelings and mood, health-related questionnaires, and cognitive tasks.


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UW Department of Psychiatry

Mood & Memory Laboratory
UW Department of Psychiatry
6001 Research Park Blvd.
Madison, WI 53719
(608) 263-6114