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Coming soon: Self-guided, computer-based depression treatment
Date:9/24/2008

HOUSTON (Sept. 24, 2008) Self-guided treatment for depression could soon be only a mouse click away.

Scientists with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing an interactive, multi-media program that will assist astronauts in recognizing and effectively managing depression and other psychosocial problems, which can pose a substantial threat to crew safety and mission operations during long-duration spaceflights.

Even though the depression treatment is under development for NASA, project leader Dr. James Cartreine said it could be spun off for use on Earth.

"This project has great potential as a self-guided treatment for many people," said Cartreine, a member of NSBRI's Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors Team. "Depression is the number one cause of disability days in the United States, but it's not only about days lost. Depression also results in presenteeism -- showing up for work but not really working."

The depression treatment is part of the Virtual Space Station, a multi-media program that addresses multiple types of potential psychosocial problems and can be used for training before, and for assistance during, missions. Other problems being addressed via the Virtual Space Station include interpersonal conflict, and stress and anxiety.

Cartreine, a Harvard Medical School research psychologist based in the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said the Virtual Space Station will make effective therapeutic depression treatment more easily accessible to astronauts aboard the International Space Station and proposed missions to the moon and Mars. Currently, astronauts have audio and video access to psychologists only when communication links are available.

Project co-investigator and former astronaut Dr. Jay Buckey said long-duration spaceflight can be tough on astronauts. "While astronauts are not particularly prone to ps
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Contact: Brad Thomas
rbthomas@bcm.edu
713-798-7595
National Space Biomedical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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