Our study is part of the Braintrain project, which responds to a huge clinical need for mechanism-driven therapies in psychiatry. Advances in neuroimaging and other neuroscience techniques have produced a wealth of information about the neural networks that can contribute to these disorders and their treatment. Anxiety disorders are common, having an estimated lifetime prevalence of 10-25%, and often begin in late childhood/early adolescence. There are currently no effective prevention programmes and current treatments yield variable outcomes. Improving our understanding of the mechanisms by which anxiety disorders first develop can inform the design of effective and targeted interventions for prevention. The transition to adolescence may mark one such developmentally-sensitive juncture for the onset of lifelong persistent anxiety problems. Particularly, it has been suggested that increased emotionality and ongoing development in the neuro-cognitive bases of emotion regulation abilities during adolescence may be one of the factors contributing to the increased risk of anxiety disorders in this age group.
This study builds on previous work by our group, which has established the suitability of using NF with paediatric populations. Specifically, here, we will use NF to train 50 adolescent girls with varying anxiety levels to increase effective connectivity in the neural networks involved in emotion regulation abilities. The rationale for this approach is that by improving the information flow in these brain regions, emotion regulation abilities will also improve. Moreover, we hope to be able to show that in turn, improvements in emotion regulation abilities will affect overall anxiety levels.