BHRI Seminar Series: The Nature and the Neurobiology of Anxiety

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - 12:00pm to Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 12:45pm



The Nature and the Neurobiology of Anxiety
Alexander Shackman, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland


Anxiety is widely conceptualized as a sustained state of elevated distress and arousal elicited by uncertain danger. When expressed too intensely or in inappropriate contexts, anxiety can become debilitating and contribute to the development of depression and substance abuse. These illnesses impose a staggering burden on patients, public health, and the global economy. Existing treatments are inconsistently effective or associated with adverse effects, underscoring the urgency of developing a deeper understanding of the mechanisms controlling the expression and experience of anxiety. Here, I will highlight data gleaned from studies of adults, children, and monkeys. Using a combination of approaches—from genetic assays and machine learning to smartphone experience sampling and multimodal neuroimaging—this work provides fresh insights into the nature and the neurobiology of anxiety-related states, traits, and diseases. In particular, our work highlights the importance of a distributed neural system encompassing the central extended amygdala, periaqueductal gray, anterior insula, and midcingulate cortex. These observations provide an integrative framework for conceptualizing anxiety, and for guiding the development of improved intervention strategies.


The mission of the Brain Health Research Institute is to foster and support collaborative research leading to innovative discoveries about the brain that ultimately improve the health of our communities and beyond.