Allan Knight ’14, Chaffin Fellow in Psychology
It’s been a little over a month, and I feel like I have established something of a routine here at the lab. I mostly enter data now for the bone loss prevention study. This study is a kind of sister project to the SSRI bone mass density study, which seeks to monitor and uncover correlations between bone mass density, mental illness status, SSRI treatment status, gut bacteria, genetic factors, physical activity, handedness, family traits, and countless other factors. The goal for both is to better understand how mental illness and its treatment contribute (or do not contribute) to bone health later in life. In medicine there is a phenomenon called the “osteoporosis line”, a point where bone mass density is so low that people are extremely susceptible to fractures. At the age where one typically crosses this threshold, the stress of recovery from a major fracture could shorten one’s life, or at least seriously lower the quality of that life. Most of our bone development occurs in childhood and adolescence; the age group of interest to Dr. Calarge. The anti-psychotic Risperidone is widely prescribed to children and adolescents struggling with surging emotions, and has been already shown to lower bone mass. Dr. Calarge thinks that by taking a supplement of Calcium and Vitamin D, these kids who today take Risperidone may be able to live with healthier bones when they might otherwise start breaking in their 70s and 80s. To assess this, Dr. Calarge has set up a double-blind placebo study on the effects of a vitamin D supplement. Each participant’s entire health history is obtained (at great cost to the NIH) and their vitals, bone mass densities, and mental states (along with other factors such as ongoing treatments) are then closely monitored for up to two years. I will not see the outcome of this study for a long time, but it’s satisfying to know my efforts are helping people live better lives.