Neuroimmune Interactions in Depression, Addiction and Pain (NIDAP) Research Program

The Neuroimmune Interactions in Depression, Addiction and Pain (NIDAP) Research Program has 2 main goals:

  1. To increase understanding of how bi-directional relations between the immune system and the central nervous system enhance susceptibility to depression and pain states, and their combined risk for prescription drug abuse
  2. To develop a practical approach to translating this information into clinical care.

This program seeks to bridge translational research gaps by developing novel in-vivo human research paradigms and strategies to validate results previously obtained from similar basic research studies involving neuroimmune interactions in animal models of depressive behavior and pain states. These in-vivo research strategies employ molecular neuroimaging techniques in an innovative way to study mind-body relationships in humans suffering with symptoms of pain and depression. Success with these novel research paradigms will lead to far less reliance on animal models for drug development and subsequently, to more clinically effective treatments and significant reductions in drug development time.

Until recently, in-vivo human studies of neuroimmune interactions involving the brain relied heavily on basic research in animal models and post-mortem studies in humans, with little in-vivo evidence in humans. As a consequence, when otherwise promising immune-based pharmaceuticals developed to treat human pain and depression were trialed in real-life clinical settings in humans, substantial treatment resistance (and many drug failures) occurred. Subsequent human “biomarker” studies suggest that inter-individual clinical (and biological) heterogeneity in humans often underlies treatment resistance in pain and/or depression. The traditional “one size fits all” drug treatment strategy is far more applicable to a homogeneous population than for the vast heterogeneity seen in humans with varying degrees of pain, depression, and frequent co-morbidities (e.g. prescription drug abuse, cardiovascular disease, etc.).