Life stress is among the most important factors in the development of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, individuals vary substantially in their response to stress. Our goal is to identify biological factors responsible for this differential stress response and to facilitate the development of improved treatments for stress related disorders.

About the Sen Lab

There is tremendous interest in finding interactions between biological factors and stress in the development of depression. Progress has been limited however, because it is difficult to predict the onset of stress beforehand and because the type of stress encountered varies widely between individuals. In our primary study, we seek to overcome these barriers by utilizing medical internship as a model of stress. Medical internship, the first year of professional physician training, presents a unique situation where the onset of a uniform, substantial stressor can be prospectively predicted. To identify genes involved in depression, we are performing genome-wide association and coding exome studies on a sample of over 20,000 interns. Beyond genes, we are utilizing the internship model to identify epigenetic patterns, serum protein levels, endothelial and neural factors that moderate the relationship between stress and depression.