We are currently recruiting 12- to- 14-year-olds for a research study about teen anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychopathology among teens, with symptoms frequently emerging during mid-adolescence, a period of rapid and profound brain development. Disruptions in attention towards emotional information is thought to contribute to anxiety. However, these disruptions and their neural bases are poorly understood. We integrate multiple methods, including fMRI, EEG, and eye-tracking, to study how patterns of attention relate to brain and behavioral markers, as well as different types of anxiety disorders. The outcome of this study will help improve treatment of anxiety disorders in youth by making personalized intervention approaches possible.
For more information on the study click on the Teen Anxiety page.
Anxiety and stress-related disorders are the most common and well-studied psychiatric disorders in childhood and adulthood. Yet only 50% of clinically-anxious individuals obtain effective, evidence-based treatments. Barriers to treatment include cost, accessibility, and time burden. Thus, the development of highly accessible, low-cost treatment approaches to complement current treatments is a crucial research goal. Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a highly-accessible, computerized intervention that may reduce a range of anxiety- and stress-related experiences. The ART study is a four year clinical trial of ABMT for anxiety in adults, focusing on understanding underlying factors in the remediation of anxiety. The project integrates multiple methods including electrophysiology, eye-tracking, neuroendocrine measures of the stress response, behavioral assays, and clinical interviews, with an emphasis on EEG/ERP methods.
In recent published studies (Dennis-Tiwary, Denefrio, & Gelber, 2017; Dennis & O’Toole, 2014), we have examined how a gamified mobile version of attention bias modification training (ABMT) may reduce a range of anxiety-related symptoms by training one’s attention away from emotional stimuli. In an effort to increase efficacy, the current study applies transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the frontal areas of the brain during ABMT. tDCS is a safe brain stimulation technique that potentiates ongoing brain activity and has been shown to accelerate learning, enhance memory, and increase creativity in healthy individuals. In addition, it has been used in the treatment of debilitating psychological, psychiatric, and neurological disorders with significant promise.Through use of this exciting technique, we hope to better understand how ABMT shifts attention and identify conditions under which ABMT may be most effective.
For more information about Dr. Bikson, visit his website.
Overgeneralization of fear, or fear responses to both signals of danger and safety, has been examined as a feature and causal factor in anxiety. While research to date has focused on relations between fear learning and overgeneralized fear, emerging evidence suggests that disruptions in how we learn about and detect safety in the environment may play an equally important role. Moreover, safety learning may be an important target of prevention and intervention, and could boost the effects of existing treatment approaches. Our current project investigates how learning about fear and safety in the environment influences overgeneralized fear and experiences of anxiety and stress. We will directly compare our findings to a parallel study with mice, increasing our ability to identify neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects. Findings have the potential to expand our understanding of etiological mechanisms in anxiety, as well as inform the development of innovative and more targeted treatment approaches.
For more information about Dr. Likhtik’s work, visit her website.
Recent research suggests that exaggerated attention to threat, or the threat bias, may be one key cause of anxiety that is not specifically targeted by existing treatments. The goal of this study is to investigate state-related flexibility of threat bias in non-anxious adults. We will be using multiple tasks to measure threat bias, and do so at multiple time points. In addition, we will examine whether threat bias is sensitive to acute stressors, thus examining the context-sensitivity of threat bias. Results will contribute to our growing understanding of how best to measure threat bias, and its clinical application.