Research Projects

Click below to see current and past projects.

Current Projects

BetterBET: Better Behaviors, Emotions, and Thoughts
Principal Investigator: Yan Leykin, Ph.D. [email protected]
Co-PI: Ricardo Muñoz, Ph.D.

Only a minority of depression sufferers receives quality care. Internet interventions can offer provide access to depression management tools to people anywhere in the world. BetterBET offers a fully-automatic, interactive, personalized Internet-based self-help intervention for depression. The intervention is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, an empirically supported treatment for depression. Participants receive access to an eight-lesson intervention, as well as tools to monitor their progress and other helpful resources.

This investigation has been funded by grants from the RWJ Health Disparities Working Group and by the CTSI Strategic Opportunities Support Program.

The Mood Screener Project
Principal Investigator: Yan Leykin, Ph.D. [email protected]
Co-PI: Ricardo Muñoz, Ph.D., Nancy Liu, Ph.D.

The multilingual automated Mood Screener offers mood and depression screening to anyone on the Internet. The goal of the project is to understand the prevalence of depression in an Internet community, as well as to track symptoms of depression over time. Participants complete a validated depression screener and receive feedback on their results. Interested participants can sign up to rescreen their mood monthly, for 12 months.

The screener is currently available in five languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic.

Click on the links below if you are interested in participating in this study.

Mood Screener

This investigation has been funded by grants from the RWJ Health Disparities Working Group and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

MoodText: Automated text messaging to improve depression treatment in low-income settings
Principal Investigator: Adrian Aguilera, Ph.D. [email protected]

Poor adherence to depression treatments (psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy) limits their effectiveness in community settings. Problems with adherence are especially pronounced in low-income settings. Innovative and cost-effective methods are needed to improve adherence to treatments and maximize mental health resources. Mobile phone based text messaging (or short messaging service: SMS) is a ubiquitous technology that has been used in various health applications across socioeconomic status. This technology has the potential to increase the fidelity of mental health treatments via increased adherence. The proposed research project tested whether adding an automated SMS adjunct to group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression increases adherence (homework adherence, attendance, medication adherence) in order to improve the quality of care in public sector settings. The SMS adjunct 1) prompts patients to monitor mood, thoughts and behaviors, 2) provides medication and appointment reminders and 3) sends personalized CBT based tips. The information that patients provide will be used within the clinical setting to highlight interrelations between thoughts, behaviors and symptoms. Click on the link below if you are interested in participating in this study.

This investigation has been funded by grants from the NIMH K23 & Robert Wood Johnson New Connections.

DIAMANTE: Personalized text messaging to increase physical activity among people with depression and diabetes in low-income settings
Principal Investigator: Adrian Aguilera, Ph.D. [email protected]

Diabetes and depression are major public health problems that disproportionately affect racial/ethnic minorities and low-income individuals in the US. There is a well-documented, bidirectional causal relationship between diabetes and depression, and evidence for the need to address both concurrently. There is a growing body of literature that suggests that physical activity is strongly linked to both depressive symptoms and glycemic control, making self-management strategies with an emphasis on initiating and maintaining physical activity levels a high priority. DIAMANTE utilizes passive sensing from smartphones to track physical activity and feeds that data into a reinforcement learning algorithm to personalize messages that are most effective for each individual.

Past Projects

Using technology to help low-income and Latino smokers quit
Principal Investigator: Ricardo F. Muñoz, Ph.D. [email protected]

The i4Health team at Palo Alto University announces the launch of a new research study to test a web app to help adult English- and Spanish-speaking smokers and low-income smokers quit. Spanish-speaking smokers use smoking cessation aids such as the nicotine patch at less than half the rate of English-speaking smokers. Low-income populations have not reduced their rates of smoking as much as the general U.S. population. The current study intends to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a new smoking cessation tool intended to benefit all smokers, including Latino and low-income smokers.

By going to, English and Spanish-speaking adult smokers may participate in our research study, which takes place entirely online. At our site, they will find information regarding smoking behaviors, why they should quit, and how to quit smoking. Additionally, users can set a quit date and keep track of the cigarettes they smoke on a daily basis. Participation in this study will allow the research team to evaluate the current version of the web app and develop better ones to benefit future smokers who intend to quit. This free web app can be accessed anywhere in the United States with any web-browsing device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. It can be used at a time and place that is convenient to the smoker. Go to now

This investigation has been funded by grants from the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program.

The Chinese Community Internet Stop Smoking Project
Principal Investigator: Janice Tsoh, Ph.D. [email protected]
Co-PIs: Angela Sun, PhD, MPH

The Chinese Community Internet Stop Smoking Project aims to establish a community-academic partnership to build accessible and sustainable online self-help resources to promote smoking cessation among Chinese smokers in the U.S. and globally. The partnership currently consists of: the Chinese Community Health Resource Center (CCHRC), the Chinese Newcomers Service Center, the Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS), the Asian Alliance for Health and UCSF-Internet World Health Research Center. Feasibility trials will be conducted to collect preliminary usability and outcome data on the first versions of the stop smoking website and mobile app in Chinese. Click on the link below if you are interested in participating in this study.

The Chinese Community Internet Stop Smoking Project

This investigation has been funded by a grant from the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program.

Practice-based Intervention for Vietnamese & Korean Patients
Principal Investigator: Janice Tsoh, Ph.D. (Academic Principal Investigator) [email protected]
Co-PIs: Susan Huang, MD (Community Principal Investigator; Medical Director, Asian Health Services)

This pilot Community Academic Research Award aims to establish a partnership between Asian Health Services (AHS) and the Vietnamese Health Promotion Project (VCHPP) to develop an interactive multimedia intervention to deliver "5As" in English, Vietnamese and Korean targeting low-income Vietnamese and Korean immigrants in primary care settings. `

This investigation has been funded by a grant from the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program.

Health and the Web
Principal Investigator: Alinne Barrera, Ph.D.
Co-PI: Ricardo F. Muñoz, Ph.D.

The purpose of the Health and the Web survey was two-fold. First, to gather information about health-related areas of greatest interest among individuals who use the Internet to obtain health information. Second, to use the study to gather normative data for mood, smoking, and other health-related assessment instruments used in Web surveys and randomized trials already being conducted by the Internet World Health Research Center at UCSF.

The Mothers and Babies Internet Course/Curso Internet de Mamás y Bebés
Principal Investigator: Alinne Barrera, Ph.D.
Co-PIs: Ricardo F. Muñoz, Ph.D.

The Mothers and Babies Internet Project was a two-condition pilot randomized controlled trial to examine an automated Internet-based prevention of postpartum depression intervention in a global sample of English and Spanish-speaking pregnant women. Participants were randomly assigned to either a mood management intervention (Mothers and Babies Course; Muñoz et al., 2001) or to a postpartum depression informational brochure.

This investigation has been funded by an NIMH Individual NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship and by funds provided by the Department of Psychiatry at the San Francisco General Hospital.

Healthy Mood Management Course
Principal Investigator: Ricardo F. Muñoz, Ph.D. [email protected]

The World Health Organization now recognizes depression as one of the most disabling medical conditions in the world. In 2003, in the US alone, depression costs amounted to 44 billion dollars in lost productivity (Stewart, Ricci, Chee, Hahn, & Morganstein, 2003). It has been estimated that one half of all persons with depression in the US, and 75% worldwide, do not receive adequate treatment (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, Koretz, Merikangas, et al., 2003). Untreated depression is associated with to up to 60% of suicide deaths, deteriorating health, and social problems, accounting for more than 11% of the total disease burden worldwide, with functional disabilities exceeded only by cardiovascular disease and cancer (Greden, 2001).

The Internet Healthy Mood Course/”Logrando un estado de ánimo saludable” will be the Web adaptation of the Depression Prevention Course, which has served as the basis for the manuals on this Website. The Web-adapted intervention will take advantage of the interactive capabilities of the Web. To increase interest in the site, engage participants, and present information verbally to participants who may have trouble reading, videos and audio messages will accompany some of the material presented in each module. The adapted intervention will include self-monitoring tools that will be displayed in graphs . For instance, participants will be able to indicate their mood levels and activities they find pleasant by clicking on an electronic mood scale and activities scale, respectively, which will produce an individualized list of activities that can then be checked off each day.

This investigation has been funded by a R34 grant from the NIMH.

Connecting Patients and Therapists Using a Tech-Based Treatment Support System
Principal Investigator: Stephen Schueller, Ph.D. [email protected]

Depression is the second leading cause of disability and has the highest burden of disease in the US. Behavioral intervention technologies (BITs), showing great promise in treating depression, require experts who can integrate an understanding of empirically-based techniques for behavior change with the effective design and application of technologies.

The long-term goal of the research is to integrate BITs into existing healthcare settings thus increasing the efficacy of existing psychological treatments for depression. To this end, the research plan will develop a technology-based treatment support system (TSS) with both patient and therapist-facing features to be used as an adjunct for cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression thus increasing its efficacy. This will be achieved through the following specific aims: 1) conduct user-centered design and usability testing to refine features and tools of the TSS and determine feasibility and acceptability of their use patients and therapists; 2) conduct a randomized pilot trial of the TSS as an adjunct to depression treatment compared to regular treatment alone; and 3) obtain preliminary data assessing efficacy the TSS, changes in mechanisms to be related to efficacy, and system-level factors that would facilitate or retard its adoption, implementation, and sustainability. These studies are expected to advance the design of BITs, improve and increase their use in clinical settings, and ultimately increase the impact of evidence-based practices.

This investigation has been funded by a K08 grant from the NIMH.