Mood Disorders

Why mood disorders research matters. 

While mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder are treatable conditions, many individuals do not respond to conventional prescription medications or talk therapies.

For some patients with treatment-resistant mood disorders, it can be a long and frustrating journey to recovery, taking months – even years, sometimes – before landing on the most effective treatment plan. 

For others – a proportion of the 4,000 individuals who die by suicide each year in Canada – effective treatment is sometimes never found. 

The effects of mood disorders can be devastating, which is why dedicated research that investigates the causes and symptoms of these disorders -- and uncovers new, evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies – is critical. 

Through innovative research, we can better understand mood disorders and suicide risk; effectively personalize treatment; improve quality of life for those who are suffering; and successfully save lives. 

“About half of patients with major depressive disorder don’t respond well to traditional treatments, including antidepressants. Clinicians continue to try different therapies and medications in an attempt to treat patients who are suffering, but it’s often a time-consuming, trial and error type process. We decided to do something different through research, by using ketamine and other novel treatment approaches to change the course.”
- Dr. Pierre Blier

What we do. 

One of the primary goals of the IMHR’s Mood Disorders Research Unit is to help patients suffering from depression get better, faster. This aim is achieved through the exploration of how novel and existing therapeutic treatments work, and a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of depression and suicide. 

This unit has the unique advantage of housing both a basic research laboratory and a clinical research unit, where novel research discoveries can directly guide and improve patient care. This research model effectively helps to bridge the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside; providing an ideal environment for research to make a direct and significant impact on treatment. 

In both the laboratory and clinical unit, the research team strives to explore new and innovative ways to treat mood disorders and inform suicide prevention strategies. Under the direction of clinician-scientist Dr. Pierre Blier (Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada), the Mood Disorders Research Unit was the first in Canada to use ketamine in the treatment of major depressive disorder, with research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Research Focus:

  • Comparing novel emerging therapies for depression to current best practice treatment; 
  • Using brain imaging to better understand suicide risk in individuals with treatment-resistant depression;
  • Harnessing electronic medical records to identify risk factors common to individuals admitted to inpatient units at the Royal at risk of suicide;
  • Discovering the doses at which medications for depression elicit their therapeutic effects; 
  • Uncovering the mechanisms of action of medications used to treat depression and investigating their effects on brain electrical activity and animal behaviour.


Maria da Silva
Woman smiling

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