for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
at San Francisco, California
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Ashley E Mason, PhDFrederick M Hecht, MD
Headshot of Ashley E Mason
Ashley E Mason
Headshot of Frederick M Hecht
Frederick M Hecht



This randomized two-arm intervention trial administers 8 weekly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions and 4 bi-weekly active whole-body hyperthermia (active WBH) sessions or 4 bi-weekly sham WBH sessions to adults aged 18 years or older with major depressive disorder (MDD).


Major Depressive Disorder afflicts more than 300 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of life years lost to disability. Current treatments have important limitations in efficacy and, in the case of medication, substantial side-effects. There is thus a compelling need for additional effective, well-tolerated treatments. One such potential treatment is whole-body hyperthermia (WBH). The investigators hypothesize that active WBH may be particularly effective in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an established treatment for depression. This randomized two-arm trial will pilot and optimize procedures for randomizing participants to receive CBT (8 weekly sessions) and 4 bi-weekly whole-body hyperthermia (active WBH) or 4 bi-weekly sham WBH sessions. This work holds important promise to improve treatment of depression and advance understanding of the role of integrated mind-body therapies for mood disorders.


Major Depressive Disorder, Depression, hyperthermia, heat therapy, passive heating, Fever, Depressive Disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Active Whole-Body Hyperthermia (Active WBH)


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

  • Age of at least 18 years old
  • Current major depressive episode of at least 2 weeks duration as assessed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 (SCID) and a Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDIII) score > 21 at screening
  • Able to understand the nature of the study and able to provide written informed consent prior to conduct of any study procedures
  • Must have smartphone onto which the participant can download an app from Apple App or Google Play stores
  • Ability to lie supine (on back) for 2 hours (required for sauna sessions)

You CAN'T join if...

  • >30% reduction in BDI-II score between Screen #1 and Screen #2 (conducted ~1 week after Screen #1)
  • Suicide attempt in the past 12 months defined using the SAMHSA suicidality question during the clinician-administered interview or active suicidal ideation as indexed by a score of 3 on the BDI-II suicidality item during the clinician-administered interview
  • Any of the following medical conditions: cardiovascular disease (other than controlled hypertension), seizure disorder, history of cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or other serious neurological condition (e.g. Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or dementia), current neoplasia, any active enclosed infection (e.g. dental abscess, joint infection), hemophilia or other cause for excessive bleeding (e.g. platelet disorder), or other medical condition that in the opinion of investigators may increase the risk of WBH
  • Comorbid psychiatric conditions or history of comorbid psychiatric conditions that might better explain depressive symptoms, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, Bipolar Disorder I, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Alcohol Dependence, or Drug Dependence
  • Known hypersensitivity to hyperthermia and/or infrared exposure
  • Inability to fit into the sauna device
  • Breast implants
  • Pregnancy, active lactation or intention to become pregnant during the study period
  • Use of any medication that might impact thermoregulatory capacity, including: Diuretics, barbiturates, beta-blockers, antipsychotic agents, anti-cholinergic agents or chronic use of antihistamines, aspirin (other than low-dose ASA for prophylactic purposes), medication prescribed for the treatment of depression (antidepressant medication [ADM]) including but not limited to: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs], Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRIs], Monoamine oxidase inhibitors [MAOIs], Tricyclics [TCAs], and atypical antipsychotic and antidepressant medications (participants must have been free of these medications for at least 4 weeks), antibiotics (past 14 days), pain medication (opioids) due to procedure, e.g., dental procedure (past 14 days), Emergency contraception pill (past 14 days) any other medication that in the judgment of the PI would increase risk of study participation or introduce excessive variance into physiological or behavioral responses to WBH recent use (multiple consecutive doses) of: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), systemic corticosteroids, cytokine antagonists
  • Regular use of any nicotine products, including cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco, or other forms of nicotine (if use is not regular, must be willing to refrain for 24 hours before and 24 hours after WBH session)
  • Unwilling to refrain from using marijuana products and alcohol for the 24 hours before and 24 hours after WBH session
  • Unwilling to refrain from heavy exercise on the day of WBH sessions
  • Unwilling to refrain from engaging with sauna, hot yoga, cold plunges, cryotherapy, and hot tub/jacuzzi outside of study (prospective participant must not have engaged with any of these activities for 30 days prior to their baseline study visit).
  • Has begun new psychotherapy treatment in the prior 6 weeks


  • UCSF
    San Francisco California 94115 United States

Lead Scientists at UCSF

  • Ashley E Mason, PhD
    Ashley Mason, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Health. She is a clinical psychologist and directs behavioral treatment for insomnia at the UCSF Osher Center Clinic. She is Director of the UCSF Sleep, Affect, and Eating (SEA) Lab.
  • Frederick M Hecht, MD
    I am trained in Internal Medicine, with additional training in clinical research methods, biostatistics, and behavioral medicine. My research focus for many years was on HIV.


in progress, not accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Francisco
Access to initial online screening for interested prospective participants
Study Type
About 30 people participating
Last Updated