Affective disorders, such as anxiety and depression, affect one out of every four Americans (Kessler &Ustun, 2008), the highest rate in the world. Over $42 billion dollars are spent in the United States each year to treat them (Kessler &Ustun, 2008). Cross-national epidemiological studies conducted by the World Health Organization in 2008 revealed robust population mental health disparities across cultural groups, particularly in prevalence of anxiety and depression, with higher rates of mood disorders typically found in Western (e.g., US) compared to non-Western cultures (e.g., Japan and South Africa). Cross-ethnic epidemiological studies conducted within the United States have found similar population mental health disparities across ethnic groups, with higher rates of affective disorders typically found in Caucasian-Americans compared to African- Americans and Asian-Americans. Despite epidemiological evidence for population mental health disparities across cultural and ethnic groups, the specific role that social and neurobiological mechanisms play in racial differences in the etiology of affective disorders remains unknown. For instance, there do not yet exist any neuroimaging studies of emotion comparing African and non-African responses in either healthy or clinical populations. This is due, in large part, to the lack of research infrastructure in Afria for studying emotional responses in Africans and comparing them to Asians and Caucasians. Our proposed research aims to bridge translational gaps in basic and clinical science by (1) developing research capacity in South Africa in affective neuroscience by creating stimuli and validating cross-site experimental paradigms and (2) using neuroimaging, autonomic and behavioral techniques to study emotional response in three distinct cultural groups: Africans, Caucasian-Americans and Japanese. These proposed studies will build research capacity in affective neuroscience in Africa by providing novel research paradigms and training opportunities for scientists in Africa. Results from these studies have the potential to be among the first to empirically demonstrate a link between racial disparities in affective disorders and sociocultural differences in basic neural mechanisms underlying typical and atypical emotion. Results from these studies also have the potential to make a significant theoretical contribution by outlining novel physiological mechanisms underlying differential emotional response previously observed and reported among minority groups. Findings from the proposed studies may provide the foundation for future grant applications examining the genetic and environmental factors contributing to racial disparities in affective disorders at social, neural ad behavioral levels of analysis. By understanding how cultural values affect neural mechanisms underlying emotional functioning, we may gain further insight into how affective disorders can be both prevented and treated across cultural groups.

Public Health Relevance

Racial disparities exist in the prevalence and treatment of affective disorders, medical conditions that affect nearly one in three Americans (Kessler &Ustun, 2008) and present a financial burden of over $42 billion dollars in treatment costs each year in the US (Kessler &Ustun, 2008). The specific aims of the proposed research are to build research capacity in affective neuroscience in South Africa in order to investigate the social and neural mechanisms underlying racial disparities in affective disorders across three cultural groups: Africans in South Africa, Japanese in Japan and Caucasian-Americans in US.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BDCN-N (55))
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Simmons, Janine M
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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