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Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder: Their Impact on the Processing of Information and Learning

This study has been completed.
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) ) Identifier:
First received: June 6, 2003
Last updated: April 21, 2017
Last verified: September 21, 2016

The purpose of this study is to increase researchers understanding of the biological basis of generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. They will investigate how the brain activity associated with specific thoughts and feelings may play a role in these anxiety disorders. This knowledge will be used to design interventions to help those with these illnesses.

To qualify for this study, participants must be evaluated via an initial telephone screening interview and material sent through the mail.

Participants will then be required to make three visits to NIH. During the first visit, they will be asked questions about their general mood, degree of nervousness, thinking skills, and behavior. They will undergo a thorough physical exam, including an EKG, blood work, urinalysis, and a pregnancy test for women of childbearing potential. During the second visit, participants will spend about 2.5 hours doing various tasks while sitting and looking at a computer screen. These tasks will guide them to experience specific kinds of thoughts and emotions. Researchers will attach electrodes to the participants hands to monitor the amount of electricity conducted by the skin. The third visit will be similar to the second visit, but participants will perform the tasks while lying in a MRI scanner.

Participants will be compensated up to $400 for their involvement in this study.

Anxiety Disorders

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Observational Model: Cohort
Time Perspective: Prospective
Official Title: Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder: Their Impact on the Processing of Social Emotional Information and Instrumental Learning

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Association of GAD/SAD with amygdala act [ Time Frame: Ongoing ]

Enrollment: 497
Study Start Date: June 5, 2003
Estimated Study Completion Date: September 21, 2016
Detailed Description:

There have been suggestions that the threshold for amygdala activity is lower in individuals with anxiety disorders than in healthy individuals. However, despite it's immediate plausibility, there have been relatively few tests of this hypothesis. Specifically, there have been very few explorations of the performance of patients with anxiety disorders on measures known to implicate the amygdala.

Although the high co-morbidity of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) complicates the issue, the fact that the disorders doubly dissociate suggests that they are due to dysfunctional activity in separable neurocognitive systems. We would suggest that the hyper-responsive amygdala hypothesis is more likely to be linked to the explanation of GAD. In contrast, SAD may be due to reduced activation thresholds for units in a system that responds to social threat and which recruits lateral orbital frontal cortex. Thus, the current project will determine the performance of patients with GAD and SAD on measures in which the amygdala is known to play a role and also measures that recruit lateral orbital frontal cortex and the system for social response reversal. In addition, two proposed neuro-imaging studies will directly assess neural responses in these two systems in both patient populations. The project should provide clear data that will constrain future theorizing on the pathology implicated in these two disorders.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 50 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Age: Participants will be males and females, 18-50 years of age.

IQ: IQ, as measured by 4 subscales from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), must be > 80.

Medication status: No regular use of psychotropic medication within 2 weeks of the study (or fluoxetine within 8 weeks of the study). No regular use of any benzodiazepine. We intend to identify patients whose GAD/SAD is currently untreated.


Because factors such as psychiatric disease, or CNS disease, can influence functional brain activity, and pregnancy precludes participation in fMRI studies, these factors are exclusionary.

  1. Psychiatric history: Participants will be assessed using DSM-IV criteria via standardized psychiatric interviews conducted by trained examiners (i.e., SCID). Any current suicidal ideation will be exclusionary.

    1. Healthy comparison individuals (Group 1): All participants will be free of any current psychiatric disorder as well as lifetime history of psychosis, pervasive developmental disorder, major affective disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, ADHD, anorexia.
    2. Patients with GAD (Group 2): Any history of an axis I diagnosis excluding SAD but not including adjustment disorder, simple phobia or dysthymia is exclusionary. There must be no current mood disoder (MD) though patients with past MD, which occurred after the onset of GAD, will be admitted to the study. We recognize the difficulty of recruiting patients with GAD without co-morbid SAD and will therefore allow patients who are comorbid into the study in this group. We have faced difficulties with our studies of children with psychopathic tendencies where, although it is possible to identify populations who only meet criteria for ADHD most children who meet criteria for psychopathic tendencies are co-morbid for ADHD. We will adopt a similar strategy to our work with children; i.e., in contrasts of patients with GAD with comparison individuals, we will use SAD symptomatology as a covariate to reduce, and evaluate, the impact of pathology associated with SAD on the data.
    3. Patients with SAD (Group 3): Any current history of an axis I diagnosis including GAD, but excluding adjustment disorder, simple phobia or dysthymia is exclusionary. There must be no current mood disorder (MD) though patients with past MD, which occurred after the onset of SAD, will be admitted to the study.
  2. History of Drug Abuse: Axis I diagnoses of substance use disorders will be exclusionary.
  3. Severe acute and chronic medical illnesses.
  4. CNS disease: History of brain abnormalities (e.g., neoplasms, subarachnoid cysts), cerebrovascular disease, infectious disease (e.g., abscess), or other neurological disease, or history of head trauma (defined as loss of consciousness > 3 min).
  5. Metal or electronic objects: Metal plates, certain types of dental braces, cardiac pacemakers, etc., that are sensitive to electromagnetic fields contraindicate MRI scans.
  6. Claustrophobia: Participants will be questioned about potential discomfort in being in an enclosed space, such as an MRI scanner.
  7. Pregnancy status: Because of the potential effects of hormonal changes on brain function as well as the unknown effects of electromagnetic field on the fetus, known pregnancy is an exclusion criterion.
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00062517

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Principal Investigator: Karina S Peschardt, Ph.D. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  More Information

Responsible Party: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Identifier: NCT00062517     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 030185
Study First Received: June 6, 2003
Last Updated: April 21, 2017

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Anxiety Disorders
Phobic Disorders
Pathologic Processes
Mental Disorders processed this record on April 28, 2017