Section on Neurobiology of Fear and Anxiety
Monique Ernst and Christian Grillon
SNFA Clinical Staff
The Section on the Neurobiology of Fear and Anxiety uses the tools of psychophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, and neuroimaging to investigate the neurobiology of fear and anxiety and their dysfunction in anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders in the population at an estimated cost in the US of more than $50 billion per year. Current treatments are hampered by limited efficacy and unwanted side-effects. Obstacles to the development of better treatments include the lack of pathophysiological markers, unsatisfactory classification due to imprecise boundaries between anxiety subtypes and comorbidity, and poor clinical efficacy of candidate anxiolytics discovered through basic research in animals. The ultimate goal of our research is therefore to elucidate the psychological and neurobiological underpinnings of normal and pathologic anxious states in order to inform the etiology, treatment, and classification of anxiety disorders. Our research focuses on identifying the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying fear, a phasic response to an imminent threat, and anxiety, a state of apprehension about anticipated harm. We attempt to understand how fear and anxiety are expressed and how these states interfere and interact with cognitive processes to alter goal directed behaviors.