Researchers on the Rise Lecture


Targets for Depression Prevention in Stressed Out Dementia Caregivers

Stephen Smagula, PhD Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Dissecting the Neural Correlates of Antidepressant Placebo Effects

Marta Pecina, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

We are delighted to feature the work of two talented early career investigators, Dr. Stephen Smagula and Dr. Marta Pecina, as part of the Researchers on the Rise lecture series.

Dr. Stephen SmagulaDr. Stephen Smagula’s research focuses on the role of behavioral disruption in the development of late-life depression, and how behavioral (rest-activity rhythm and sleep-wake characteristics) and neurobiological (brain structural pathology) factors inter-relate to cause depression. He earned his PhD in neuroepidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Smagula obtained additional training as a postdoctoral scholar in the Pitt Department of Psychiatry’s T32 training programs focusing on Translational Research Training in Sleep Medicine and Clinical and Translational Late-Life Mood Research. With funding from an NIMH-funded K01 award, he is currently investigating depression in dementia caregivers and linking brain structure and sleepwake risks.

Dr. Marta PecinaDr. Peciña’s research examines the complex interaction between a patient’s beliefs, the specific properties of antidepressant medications, and the neurobiology of depression. Dr. Peciña earned her MD and PhD from University of Navarra and completed her psychiatry residency at the University of Navarra Medical Center.  As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan faculty, she developed expertise in structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. With support from a K23 career development award from the NIMH and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Dr. Peciña is working to identify imaging-biomarkers of treatment response that can be used in clinical practice.

Location: Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Auditorium

For More Information: Please contact Frances Patrick (

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of these lectures, participants will be able to:

  1. Apply the public health significance of developing targeted depression prevention approaches for stressed family caregivers of dementia patients. 

  2. Identify the key caregiver stressors that affect depression risk in caregivers. 

  3. Examine the potential mechanisms linking caregiving stressors with depression risk.

  4. Summarize previous knowledge about the biological mechanisms implicated in placebo analgesia.

  5. Explain the mechanisms through which placebos modulate emotional responses.

  6. Recognize the neural correlates of antidepressant placebo effects.

Continuing Education Credit:  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. Each physician should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Other health care professionals are awarded .15 continuing education units (CEUs), which are equal to 1.5 contact hours. In accordance with Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education requirements on disclosure, information about relationships of presenters with commercial interests (if any) will be included in materials which will be distributed at the time of the conference.  WPIC is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists. WPIC maintains responsibility for this program and its contents. This program is being offered for 1.5 continuing education credits.