As one of the larger departments at NKI, the OPRD team collaborates with other NKI research scientists (including psychologists and psychiatrists) to develop and conduct research studies. A primary pathway for this collaboration is via referral through the Volunteer Recruitment Pool, a registry of over 1,600 volunteers who have undergone a research diagnostic interview and are interested in learning about future research opportunities. This, in addition to a model system for clinical research assessment that includes gold standard in-person clinical evaluations, integration of new technologies for proctored computerized self-assessments, and research medical assessments (including specimen collection and health assessments using state-of-the-art techniques), allows OPRD to collect high-quality data to answer scientific questions efficiently and reliably.
Though specific studies vary over time, OPRD is typically engaged in 15 to 20 scientific studies at any given moment. These investigations contribute to numerous scientific publications annually. Recent discoveries have included breakthroughs in understanding how emotional arousal impacts decision-making and how memories are stored and retrieved. The OPRD has spearheaded a large community partnership, the NKI-Rockland Sample Initiative (www.rocklandsample.org), which is designed to explore how brain structure and function impact thinking and behavior. Approximately 1,200 community members have participated in the NKI-Rockland Sample Initiative programs since 2010, generating one of the largest community-ascertained datasets in existence exploring brain-behavior relationships. In addition to understanding how the brain works, the OPRD has recently collaborated on studies aimed at the exploration, refinement, and development of treatments in schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. Finally, the OPRD completes dozens of general pediatric psychiatry evaluations annually for families and children in our community, and members of the department serve in leadership roles for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), the Mental Health Coalition, and the West Hudson Psychiatric Society.