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Concept: Anxiety disorder


Domestic violence in the perinatal period is associated with adverse obstetric outcomes, but evidence is limited on its association with perinatal mental disorders. We aimed to estimate the prevalence and odds of having experienced domestic violence among women with antenatal and postnatal mental disorders (depression and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], eating disorders, and psychoses).

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Abnormal psychology, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Anxiety disorder, Anxiety disorders, Hypervigilance


Physical activity reduces the incidence and severity of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, voluntary wheel running produces anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects in rodent models. The specific neurobiological mechanisms underlying the beneficial properties of exercise, however, remain unclear. One relevant pharmacological target in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is the 5-HT(2C) receptor (5-HT(2C)R). Consistent with data demonstrating the anxiogenic consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in humans and rodents, we have previously reported that site-specific administration of the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 in the lateral/basolateral amygdala (BLA) increases shock-elicited fear while administration of CP-809101 in the dorsal striatum (DS) interferes with shuttle box escape learning. These findings suggest that activation of 5-HT(2C)R in discrete brain regions contributes to specific anxiety- and depression-like behaviors and may indicate potential brain sites involved in the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of exercise. The current studies tested the hypothesis that voluntary wheel running reduces the behavioral consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in the BLA and DS, specifically enhanced shock-elicited fear and interference with shuttle box escape learning. After 6 weeks of voluntary wheel running or sedentary conditions, the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 was microinjected into either the BLA or the DS of adult Fischer 344 rats, and shock-elicited fear and shuttle box escape learning was assessed. Additionally, in-situ hybridization was used to determine if 6 weeks of voluntary exercise changed levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA. We found that voluntary wheel running reduced the behavioral effects of CP-809101 and reduced levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in both the BLA and the DS. The current data indicate that expression of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in discrete brain sites is sensitive to physical activity status of the organism, and implicates the 5-HT(2C)R as a target for the beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Ventral tegmental area, Obesity, Cerebrum, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Anxiety disorder


Diagnostic features of emotional expressions are differentially distributed across the face. The current study examined whether these diagnostic features are preferentially attended to even when they are irrelevant for the task at hand or when faces appear at different locations in the visual field. To this aim, fearful, happy and neutral faces were presented to healthy individuals in two experiments while measuring eye movements. In Experiment 1, participants had to accomplish an emotion classification, a gender discrimination or a passive viewing task. To differentiate fast, potentially reflexive, eye movements from a more elaborate scanning of faces, stimuli were either presented for 150 or 2000 ms. In Experiment 2, similar faces were presented at different spatial positions to rule out the possibility that eye movements only reflect a general bias for certain visual field locations. In both experiments, participants fixated the eye region much longer than any other region in the face. Furthermore, the eye region was attended to more pronouncedly when fearful or neutral faces were shown whereas more attention was directed toward the mouth of happy facial expressions. Since these results were similar across the other experimental manipulations, they indicate that diagnostic features of emotional expressions are preferentially processed irrespective of task demands and spatial locations. Saliency analyses revealed that a computational model of bottom-up visual attention could not explain these results. Furthermore, as these gaze preferences were evident very early after stimulus onset and occurred even when saccades did not allow for extracting further information from these stimuli, they may reflect a preattentive mechanism that automatically detects relevant facial features in the visual field and facilitates the orientation of attention towards them. This mechanism might crucially depend on amygdala functioning and it is potentially impaired in a number of clinical conditions such as autism or social anxiety disorders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Face, Paul Ekman, Fear, Social anxiety, Social anxiety disorder


BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders and is associated with marked impairments. However, a small proportion of individuals with SAD seek and receive treatment. Internet-administrated cognitive behavior therapy (iCBT) has been found to be an effective treatment for SAD. This trial will be the first Internet-delivered guided self-help intervention for SAD in Romania. METHODS: Participants with social anxiety disorder (N = 96) will be recruited via newspapers, online banners and Facebook. Participants will be randomized to either: a) an active treatment, or b) a waiting list control group.The treatment will have a guided iCBT format and will last for nine weeks. Self-report questionnaires on social phobia, anxiety, depression, treatment credibility and irrational thinking will be used. All assessments will be collected pre, post and at follow-up (six months after intervention). Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale – Self-Report version (LSAS-SR) will be the primary outcome measure and will be administrated on a weekly basis in both conditions. DISCUSSION: The present randomized controlled trial investigates the efficacy of an Internet-administered intervention in reducing social anxiety symptoms in a culture where this form of treatment has not been tested. This trial will add to the body of knowledge on the efficacy of iCBT, and the results might lead to an increase of the accessibility of evidence-based psychological treatment in Romania.Trial NCT01557894.

Concepts: Cognitive behavioral therapy, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder


Objectives To examine the risk of relapse and time to relapse after discontinuation of antidepressants in patients with anxiety disorder who responded to antidepressants, and to explore whether relapse risk is related to type of anxiety disorder, type of antidepressant, mode of discontinuation, duration of treatment and follow-up, comorbidity, and allowance of psychotherapy.Design Systematic review and meta-analyses of relapse prevention trials.Data sources PubMed, Cochrane, Embase, and clinical trial registers (from inception to July 2016).Study selection Eligible studies included patients with anxiety disorder who responded to antidepressants, randomised patients double blind to either continuing antidepressants or switching to placebo, and compared relapse rates or time to relapse.Data extraction Two independent raters selected studies and extracted data. Random effect models were used to estimate odds ratios for relapse, hazard ratios for time to relapse, and relapse prevalence per group. The effect of various categorical and continuous variables was explored with subgroup analyses and meta-regression analyses respectively. Bias was assessed using the Cochrane tool.Results The meta-analysis included 28 studies (n=5233) examining relapse with a maximum follow-up of one year. Across studies, risk of bias was considered low. Discontinuation increased the odds of relapse compared with continuing antidepressants (summary odds ratio 3.11, 95% confidence interval 2.48 to 3.89). Subgroup analyses and meta-regression analyses showed no statistical significance. Time to relapse (n=3002) was shorter when antidepressants were discontinued (summary hazard ratio 3.63, 2.58 to 5.10; n=11 studies). Summary relapse prevalences were 36.4% (30.8% to 42.1%; n=28 studies) for the placebo group and 16.4% (12.6% to 20.1%; n=28 studies) for the antidepressant group, but prevalence varied considerably across studies, most likely owing to differences in the length of follow-up. Dropout was higher in the placebo group (summary odds ratio 1.31, 1.06 to 1.63; n=27 studies).Conclusions Up to one year of follow-up, discontinuation of antidepressant treatment results in higher relapse rates among responders compared with treatment continuation. The lack of evidence after a one year period should not be interpreted as explicit advice to discontinue antidepressants after one year. Given the chronicity of anxiety disorders, treatment should be directed by long term considerations, including relapse prevalence, side effects, and patients' preferences.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Odds ratio, Effect size, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Anxiety disorder, Anxiety disorders


Cognitive theorists relate anxiety disorders to the way in which emotional information is processed. The existing research suggests that patients with anxiety disorders tend to allocate their attention toward threat-related information selectively, and this may differ among different types of anxious subjects. The aim of this study was to explore attentional bias in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) using the emotional Stroop task and compare the differences between them.

Concepts: Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Generalized anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder


Emotional trauma is transmitted across generations. For example, children witnessing their parent expressing fear to specific sounds or images begin to express fear to those cues. Within normal range, this is adaptive, although pathological fear, such as occurs in posttraumatic stress disorder or specific phobias, is also socially transmitted to children and is thus of clinical concern. Here, using a rodent model, we report a mother-to-infant transfer of fear to a novel peppermint odor, which is dependent on the mother expressing fear to that smell in pups' presence. Examination of pups' neural activity using c-Fos early gene expression and (14)C 2-deoxyglucose autoradiography during mother-to-infant fear transmission revealed lateral and basal amygdala nuclei activity, with a causal role highlighted by pharmacological inactivation of pups' amygdala preventing the fear transmission. Maternal presence was not needed for fear transmission, because an elevation of pups' corticosterone induced by the odor of the frightened mother along with a novel peppermint odor was sufficient to produce pups' subsequent aversion to that odor. Disruption of axonal tracts from the Grueneberg ganglion, a structure implicated in alarm chemosignaling, or blockade of pups' alarm odor-induced corticosterone increase prevented transfer of fear. These memories are acquired at younger ages compared with amygdala-dependent odor-shock conditioning and are more enduring following minimal conditioning. Our results provide clues to understanding transmission of specific fears across generations and its dependence upon maternal induction of pups' stress response paired with the cue to induce amygdala-dependent learning plasticity. Results are discussed within the context of caregiver emotional responses and adaptive vs. pathological fears social transmission.

Concepts: Anxiety, Nervous system, Psychological trauma, Stress, Anxiety disorder, Social anxiety disorder, Phobia, Acrophobia


The most efficacious treatments for social anxiety disorder (SAD) are the SSRIs and cognitive therapy (CT). Combined treatment is advocated for SAD but has not been evaluated in randomized trials using CT and SSRI. Our aim was to evaluate whether one treatment is more effective than the other and whether combined treatment is more effective than the single treatments.

Concepts: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Avoidant personality disorder, Personality disorder, Social anxiety disorder, Paroxetine


The mechanisms underlying hyperarousal, the key symptom of insomnia, have remained elusive, hampering cause-targeted treatment. Recently, restless rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep emerged as a robust signature of sleep in insomnia. Given the role of REM sleep in emotion regulation, we hypothesized that restless REM sleep could interfere with the overnight resolution of emotional distress, thus contributing to accumulation of arousal. Participants (n = 1,199) completed questionnaires on insomnia severity, hyperarousal, self-conscious emotional distress, and thought-like nocturnal mentation that was validated to be a specific proxy for restless REM sleep (selective fragmentation: R = 0.57, P < 0.001; eye movement density: R = 0.46, P < 0.01) in 32 polysomnographically assessed participants. The experience of distress lasting overnight increased with insomnia severity (β = 0.29, P < 10(-23)), whereas short-lasting distress did not (β = -0.02, P = 0.41). Insomnia severity was associated with hyperarousal (β = 0.47, P < 10(-63)) and with the thought-like nocturnal mentation that is specifically associated with restless REM sleep (β = 0.31, P < 10(-26)). Structural equation modeling showed that 62.4% of the association between these key characteristics of insomnia was mediated specifically by reduced overnight resolution of emotional distress. The model outperformed all alternative mediation pathways. The findings suggest that restless REM sleep reflects a process that interferes with the overnight resolution of distress. Its accumulation may promote the development of chronic hyperarousal, giving clinical relevance to the role of REM sleep in emotion regulation in insomnia, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Concepts: Psychology, Sleep, The Key, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Stress, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Structural equation modeling


Survivors of sexual violence have high rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although treatment for symptoms related to sexual violence has been shown to be effective in high-income countries, evidence is lacking in low-income, conflict-affected countries.

Concepts: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Stress, Anxiety disorder, Sertraline, Rape, Hypervigilance