Difficulty down-regulating negative affect is a prominent feature of anxiety disorders and impairment in the extinction of an aversively-conditioned response, long an important model of anxiety, is a likely mechanism underlying this form of anxiety-related emotion dysregulation. A separate line of inquiry has indicated that specific genes are associated with both extinction deficits and the functional neuroanatomy of emotion regulation. Specifically the serotonin transporter promoter gene (5-HTTLPR) is associated with greater amygdala and reduced rostral anterior cingulate activation during affective challenge and the DRD4 dopamine receptor gene has been linked with extinction learning. Imaging genetics studies of extinction will be useful for understanding the mechanisms underlying affect dysregulation in anxiety and risk for anxiety.
SPECIFIC AIMS : The proposed research project will integrate findings from these domains by assessing how the 5-HTTLPR and DRD4 genes influence neural circuitry previously implicated in emotion dysregulation and extinction learning in a sample of those at risk for anxiety. CAREER DEVELOPMENT PLAN: The candidate's long term goal is to become an independent investigator in the area of imaging genetics of emotion regulation and affective psychopathology. The proposed research and training activities will focus on building expertise in three domains: 1) conditioning as a model for anxiety, 2) genetics and imaging genetics of affect-related traits, and 3) further development of previously established neuroimaging skills. The candidate will work closely with a team of mentors and consultants with expertise spanning these three domains. In addition to the proposed research project, the candidate will complete formal coursework and lab-based training, along with advisor-directed didactics in each area. SIGNIFICANCE: This project and the candidate's subsequent work will utilize the power of the imaging genetics approach to more precisely specify the mechanisms via which genes modulate emotion dysregulation and confer risk for anxiety and affective psychopathology.
I will examine how specific genes influence brain regions activated when attempting to down- regulate responses to previously threatening stimuli among individuals at risk for anxiety disorders. These data will further our understanding of neurobiological factors associated with vulerability to anxiety and provide an important step toward identifying appropriate prevention and intervention measures for clinical anxiety.
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