Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the gold standard therapy for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But for some reason, it wasn’t effective for Anne and Andy Heller’s family member. So, the couple, who are members of McLean’s National Council and generous donors to OCD research at McLean, are pleased to be supporting a promising young researcher who is looking into why the therapy doesn’t work well for some patients.
“There are different ways to implement ERP,” explained the researcher, Jennie Kuckertz, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at McLean’s OCD Institute (OCDI). “I’m interested in discovering the mechanisms at work in ERP. How can we look at the person in front of us and identify what approach to ERP would be most helpful?”
Support That Helps Launch Research Careers
Kuckertz is one of four talented investigators at the beginning of their careers whose research has been supported by the Hellers. The others are Martha Falkenstein, PhD, Jacob Nota, PhD, and Nathaniel Van Kirk, PhD.
Falkenstein uses machine learning, a technique that finds insights in large amounts of data, to improve therapy. Nota investigates how disrupted sleep cycles and low alertness affect the success of OCD treatment. And Van Kirk’s research tracks patients’ heart rates, movement, and other variables through wearable sensors to better understand how treatment is working.
“The Hellers have been truly instrumental in forwarding our research agenda,” said OCDI Program Director Diane Davey, RN, MBA. “These young investigators have gone on to obtain their own outside research grants, thanks to the work the Hellers supported.”
Jason Krompinger, PhD, the OCDI’s director of psychological services and clinical research, added that “the research they’ve enabled helps inform our clinical decision making, which in turn has improved the care we provide.”