In addition to his private practice, Dr. McLeod has been actively involved in research throughout his career. His first research endeavor was conducted in the Department of Pathology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and focused on the causes of uncontrolled growth of tumor cells. He studied regeneration of pancreatic acinar cells in an effort to understand what initiates cell growth, what sustains it, and what terminates growth. His research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.



Research in Biological Psychiatry

After completing his residency in psychiatry, Dr. McLeod joined the staff at John Umstead Hospital in Butner, North Carolina. He served as Director of the Central Unit and was elected President of the Medical Staff in 1977. There, he organized a research team with Dr. Jonathan R.T. Davidson to study new treatments for depression. The investigative team:

  • Studied the antidepressant effects of phenelzine, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI);
  • Extensively measured platelet MAOI activity in relation to types of depression;
  • Monitored MAOI activity during phenelzine therapy;
  • Measured phenelzine acetylation in individuals to assess whether the antidepressant is less efficacious in people who are fast acetylators;
  • Evaluated the potential of tandamine, a tricyclic antidepressant that acts as a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (was never commercialized);
  • Determined the ability of triiodothyronine (T-3), a thyroid hormone, to augment the antidepressant effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT);
  • Researched whether levels of the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) might be of diagnostic value in determining whether to treat resistant depression with imipramine or phenelzine;
  • Conducted the first ever comparison of combined drugs MAOI-tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) vs. ECT for resistant depression. At the time, MAOI-TCA combinations were a controversial treatment; the combination performed poorly in our trial-—much worse than ECT alone.

This collaboration was fruitful and produced quite a few publications. For a list of publications, see Publications.


Research in Psychoanalysis


During the 1970s and 80s, Dr. McLeod also studied psychoanalysis at the UNC-Duke Psychoanalytic Education Program. He graduated in 1977, was certified as a psychoanalyst by the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1977, and was appointed Training and Supervising Analyst in 1982. After graduating from analytic training, Dr. McLeod continued his psychoanalytic study and research, reviewing the writings of Sigmund Freud, including his letters to his scientific colleague, Wilhelm Fliess (written between 1887 and 1904) and all 23 volumes of Freud’s Complete Collected Works. Dr. McLeod traced how Freud’s understanding of psychoanalysis changed over his lifetime, including his model for how the mind works (ego, superego and id), his theory of dreaming, anxiety, and psychoanalytic technique. Dr. McLeod gave hundreds of lectures on these topics, and the results of some of his research were published in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1992.

Development of a Method for Psychiatric Diagnosis


Dr. McLeod developed the McLeod Guide for the Assessment of Psychiatric Disorders, which is an assessment form designed to assist in the evaluation of all psychiatric disorders. The McLeod Guide was copyrighted in 1998 and patented in 2000. The purpose of the Guide is to help the mental health professional conduct a thorough psychiatric evaluation and assess the severity of the disorder. It serves as a “reminder” of the many possible difficulties (so called co-morbid conditions) that may be present in a single patient. The Guide presents an algorithm for each psychiatric disorder and explains the step-by-step procedure for applying it. (An algorithm is method for solving a problem by following a list of questions and suggestions.) In addition to the algorithms, the Guide includes a case history to illustrate each of the psychiatric disorders.

Discovery of Chromium’s Role in Mental Health


In the course of his private practice, Dr. McLeod serendipitously discovered that the trace mineral chromium can help alleviate food cravings, especially craving for carbohydrates. Carbohydrate craving is a prominent symptom in atypical depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and daily mood variations. Chromium may offer help to some people who suffer from these conditions.* Dr. McLeod conducted single-blind trials that supported his initial observations. The U.S. Patent Office affirmed the originality of his discoveries by granting him patents that cover the use of chromium alone and in combination with antidepressant medications for the treatment of depression, PMS, diurnal mood variation, and SAD. Dr. McLeod’s theory is that chromium, which is necessary for insulin to function normally, improves the brain’s use of glucose and enables it to make the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) necessary for a healthy mood. Click on this link to read testimonials.

In 1997 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Dr. McLeod’s investigational new drug (IND) application (no. 54,951) for use of chromium in depression research. Afterward, Dr. McLeod extended his clinical research by including teams of investigators at the UNC Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, and Comprehensive Neuroscience, a New York-based company that operates the largest network of clinical research sites for central nervous system trials in the United States. The Institutional Review Boards at UNC and Duke University Medical Center approved the research projects. The positive results of McLeod’s research have been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. See list under Publications.

McLeod’s discoveries have generated much interest in the academic world of psychiatry. With the hope of reaching a broader audience, McLeod wrote a book on his discovery titled Lifting Your Depression. The book is now in its second edition.

*The FDA has not approved these claims.

Development of a Method to Individualize Auditory Reception


Dr. McLeod designed a method that allows an individual to customize auditory reception in various devices, including television sets. Working with an audio engineer, the individual’s hearing deficit is determined using an audiometer. The normal hearing range, when there is no impairment, is 20 Hz (cycles per second) to 20 kHz (20,000 Hz). The audio engineer selects a number of frequencies, say 8 for example, from the normal hearing range. The engineer determines the threshold for each frequency, one at a time, by emitting a tone starting at a low volume of –6.0dB and gradually increases the volume in 0.5dB increments until the listener can hear the tone. This sequence is repeated with 8 frequencies. The engineer adjusts the audio receiver to compensate for the deficits found during audiometry. This process can be accomplished in a boutique audio shop or it can be done by an individual whose audio receiver contains a built in audiometer and an intrinsic computer program that automatically adjust frequency volume as the individual follows an onscreen display.

The likelihood of making such corrections to an audio receiver/amplifier by chance, without first determining hearing loss, is practically impossible. If the audio engineer selects 8 frequencies from the normal hearing range and each frequency can be amplified in 0.5dB increments from –6.0dB to +6.0 dB, that adds up to 25 possible adjustments for each of the 8 frequencies. The likelihood of making a “correct” adjustment by chance is 1 in 258, or is 1 chance in 152 billion.

McLeod applied for a patent (2009) to cover this invention and in 2010 it was copyrighted as McLeod Sound 1:1.

Lifting Your Depression

New book describes how taking a simple substance called chromium can reduce some symptoms of depression.

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Dr. McLeod discusses Atypical Depression, the most common type of depression.

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