David J. Hellerstein, MD
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
Research Psychiatrist, New York State Psychiatric Institute
Dr. David J. Hellerstein is a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center. He was formerly the Clinical Director of the Institute. He specializes in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, with a particular focus on the medication treatment of persistent depressive disorder, or chronic depression.
Dr. Hellerstein is also Director of the Mood Disorders Research Program in New York, part of the Depression Evaluation Service, which conducts studies on the medication treatment of chronic depression.
He has published over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on subjects including the treatment of dysthymic disorder (persistent depressive disorder), supportive psychotherapy, and the use of new media in psychiatry.
Dr. Hellerstein has also received national recognition for his literary writing, and has been awarded the Pushcart Prize and several MacDowell Colony Fellowships. His books include Battles of Life and Death (essays about medical training), Loving Touches (a novel), and A Family of Doctors (a memoir of five generations of doctors in one family). His journalism has been published in magazines including Harper’s and The New York Times Magazine.
His book, Heal Your Brain: How the New Neuropsychiatry Can Help You Go From Better to Well, was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. A Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he has served as President of the New York County District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association.
He has a private practice in psychiatry and psychopharmacology. He has a blog on Psychologytoday.com at: Heal Your Brain
He discussed his research on Blogtalk Radio: Depression and Brain Circuits
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For over 20 years, Dr. Hellerstein has conducted clinical trials using a wide variety of antidepressant medications in the treatment of chronic depression. He has a particular interest in what the DSM5 calls Persistent Depressive Disorder, and what was previously known as dysthymic disorder. This is a form of depression lasting a minimum of two years, and often present for decades before an individual seeks treatment. In addition to studying various classes of medications including the SSRIs, NDRIs, SNRIs and others, Dr. Hellerstein has conducted psychotherapy research studies. Most recently he completed a study of behavioral activation therapy to improve work functioning in individuals whose chronic depression has responded to antidepressant medication.
Beginning several years ago, Dr. Hellerstein has added repeated MRI imaging to his randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials. MRI imaging is done before treatment is started and after 10 to 12 weeks of antidepressant or placebo treatment. Working in collaboration with MRI experts Dr. Bradley Peterson, Dr. Jonathan Posner and others, these groundbreaking studies will provide new understanding of the effects of chronic depression on the brain's structure, functioning, connectivity, and chemistry. A recent publication (2013) in JAMA Psychiatry determined that a particular brain network, the default mode network, has abnormally increased activity in chronic depression, which returns to the level found in healthy individuals with medication treatment but not with placebo treatment.
His current study, desvenlafaxine vs. placebo in chronic depressive disorder is using repeat MRI scanning in an attempt to replicate the findings of the previous study that used duloxetine, another antidepressant medication.