Research Areas and Programs

The best clinical care and education begins with innovative and clinically relevant scientific research.  We host the powerful combination of clinicians identifying patient-relevant questions and researchers discovering the answers.  We have one of the nation’s largest concentrations of researchers studying aging and mental health related issues, health services geriatric researchers who are working to find “the right treatment for the right person at the right time.”
The PPA serves as a home for research collaboration.  We currently have 20 affiliates within the University of Michigan in the departments of Psychiatry, Geriatric Medicine, Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, and in the Schools of Public Health and Social Work.  We also forge relationships with other major institutions around the country and the VA in order to take advantage of the best minds working together.
Our ongoing research examines:

  • individualized programs to improve successful treatment of later-life depression
  • racial differences in the acceptability, preference and effectiveness of depression treatments
  • investigation of the health risks of some mental health medications for older adults
  • neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia and depression
  • increased substance abuse risks and tailored treatments for those in later-life
  • integration of medical and mental health care
  • use of complementary therapies, such as mindfulness meditation, especially in the prevention of later-life depression and anxiety
  • depression related to retirement
  • care for seriously mental ill patients in nursing homes, and
  • health policy issues relevant to older adults, such as Medicare coverage

It is our commitment to continue to remain objective in our research discovery by not accepting industry-sponsored funding.  This requires us to compete for more limited avenues for research support, but protects the veracity of our findings and our academic reputation.


Dr. Kales’ Article Named One of Top Ten Psychiatry Stories of 2012

Congratulations to PPA Director, Dr. Helen C. Kales—Journal Watch Psychiatry honored her article “Risk of Mortality Among Individual Antipsychotics in Patients with Dementia” as one of the Top Ten Psychiatry Stories of 2012.

The publication stemmed from a grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.  In it Dr. Kales and collaborators evaluated how use of antipsychotic medications, such as risperidone, haloperidol, quetiapine and olanzapine, affect the risk of death in dementia patients. Analyses found that risks varied by medication. While haloperidol had the highest six-month mortality rate, quetiapine had the lowest. 

Journal Watch condenses summaries of key research across specialties, including Psychiatry, from more than 250 medical journals into concise yet comprehensive articles, incorporating clinical commentary from prominent physician-editors in the field.  According to their website, editors chose the top 10 stories in the field of Psychiatry “with an eye toward relevance to clinical practice.”

Of the articles chosen, editors said “Overall, the stories highlight a continuing problem for both treatment researchers and the patients hoping to benefit from this research: The paucity of studies examining how best to treat patients who have not benefitted from an initial (or several initial) courses of treatment.”

This study continues the PPA’s tradition of vital research with a focus on improving the mental health and mental health treatment of older adults. 

For more on the Top 10 stories, visit Journal Watch’s website:

Full Citation of Article:
Kales HC, Kim HM, Zivin K, Valenstein, M, Seyfried LS, Chiang C, Cunningham F, Schneider L, Blow FC.  Risk of mortality among individual antipsychotics in patients with dementia.  American Journal of Psychiatry 169 (1): 71, 2012.

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