Research Studies

There is a stark chasm between the advancement of treatments for physical ailments like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, compared to those for behavioral health conditions such as depression. Despite the fact that mental disorders contribute to approximately 14% of global deaths annually (a staggering 8 million lives lost), the disparity in treatment progression is a growing issue. 
Vail Health’s Behavioral Health Innovation Center (BHIC) aims to address the need for novel treatments in behavioral health. Led by Vail Health Behavioral Health’s Executive Director Chris Lindley and Dr. Charles Raison, a distinguished psychiatrist, researcher and professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the BHIC is poised to pioneer a paradigm shift in mental health treatment and is steadfast in its mission to: 

  1. Forge new pathways toward healing, aiming to identify alternative treatment modalities for mental disorders.
  2. Rigorously research alternatives in behavioral health settings to evaluate safety, feasibility, and efficacy.
  3. Optimize existing treatments to enhance outcomes and accessibility.

 The BHIC will initially focus on the following three studies:




CHILL'D Study (“Cold and Heat Investigation to Lower Levels of Depression”) will explore ways to optimize the proven benefits of hyperthermia for depression, including whether adding cold to heat will improve outcomes and whether hyperthermia can be effectively combined with standard antidepressants. Building upon existing evidence suggesting the antidepressant effects of heat therapy, this groundbreaking study will explore the synergistic potential of combining heat treatment with cold water plunge. Key objectives include assessing whether cold immersion augments the antidepressant properties of heat therapy and examining the impact of antidepressant medication on the efficacy of heat treatment. Additionally, in collaboration with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute (SPRI), the BHIC will investigate the effects of heat and cold therapy on senescent cells—cells that have ceased dividing and that contribute to unhealthy aging. This exploration holds profound implications, as understanding the interplay between these treatments and senescent cells could offer insights into novel therapeutic avenues. 




The RECAP Follow-Up Study, which will be conducted at UW–Madison, will use model systems to develop and optimize neuroscience techniques for assessing the effects of psilocybin on the brain in context of mental health disorders. Results of this work will inform the subsequent OPT-IN Study.



The OPT-IN Study (Optimizing Psilocybin), which will be conducted at Vail Health BHIC, will examine novel ways to enhance the impact of psilocybin on depression and anxiety via co-administration of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation. It will also assess the impact of psilocybin on real-world social behavior and will use advanced strategies to better understand the risks and benefits of psilocybin use in a legalized setting, such as Colorado.