Cellular Aging and Neurobiology of Depression (CAN-D) Study

This study examines the relationship among depression, biological markers of stress, and brain structure in adults.

Study design

People who are interested in participating will first complete a 30-minute phone screen about their mood and health. If they seem like a good fit for the study at that point, they will be invited to come to UCSF for an in-person interview with the study coordinator and study psychiatrist to determine their full eligibility for enrollment.

Once enrolled, participants will complete some online questionnaires at their convenience. Participants will then come in for a scheduled “baseline” visit at UCSF, during which they will complete a blood draw, cognitive tests, and will discuss their mood and recent symptoms of depression. On the same day or within a few days of this baseline visit, participants will undergo a magnetic resonance scan (MRI) of their brain at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center; this scan should take about 1 1/2 hours to complete.

After these baseline procedures have been completed, participants will begin taking an FDA-approved antidepressant (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, commonly known as an SSRI). The specific SSRI will be chosen by themselves and the study psychiatrist; no placebos will be used. The participant will continue taking the medication under the supervision of the study psychiatrist for eight weeks. Four weeks after beginning the medication, participants will return to UCSF for a follow-up blood draw and clinical check-in. Four weeks after this visit (eight weeks in total) participants will complete all of the same procedures from baseline (the blood draw, cognitive testing, depression symptom ratings, and MRI). Additionally, you may be asked to collect a stool sample while you are at home prior to your baseline, Week 4 and Week 8 visits—this portion of the study is not required to participate but does provide compensation of $25 per sample ($75 in total) if you do choose to complete it.

Participant requirements

We are currently seeking depressed men and women (ages 21-60) who are medically healthy and off all psychiatric medications for at least six weeks before enrolling. Participants must not have had any substance use disorders (including alcohol) in the past six months and must not have bipolar disorder or current symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Female participants must not be pregnant.


Participants can receive up to $400 for completing all study procedures over the eight weeks of participation.

End date

February 28, 2020

Principal investigators

Contact information

You may contact the Study Coordinator and other study research assistants by sending an email to [email protected] or by calling (415) 476-7254. You may also visit the study's webpage at pnelab.ucsf.edu for more information.