What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an umbrella term used to describe mental illnesses such as obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and phobias. The fear brought on by these disorders can be paralysing and severely interfere with a person’s everyday life.

The symptoms of anxiety – usually brought on by distressing events or personality traits – include compulsions that cannot be controlled, excess worry, irrational fears and panic attacks.

However, anxiety disorders are treatable through medication, cognitive behaviour therapy and community support.

Anxiety research at QBI

QBI neuroscientists are also working hard to better understand the area of the brain called the amygdala, which is where anxiety disorders tend to develop.

Using electrophysiology, imaging and behavioural experiments, researchers have identified some of the key local circuits involved in anxiety disorders and have discovered the molecular composition of some receptors in the amygdala that are potential targets for new anxiolytics.

An Australian-first clinical trial run by Queensland Brain Institute researcher, Dr Philip Mosley, with Asia-Pacific Centre for Neuromodulation Co-Director Professor Peter Silburn and research member Associate Professor Terry Coyne, showed deep brain stimulation (DBS) helped people with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – a condition which can inflict intrusive, anxiety-provoking thoughts (obsessions) that may be accompanied by mental acts or behaviours (compulsions).

Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri is trying to understand new mechanisms that are central to neurogenic regulation and learn how new neurons impact neural circuits and behaviour and translate these principles to better understand and ultimately treat cognitive and mood-related deficits associated with anxiety and depression.

Professor John McGrath and his team aim to explore risk factors linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders, such as anxiety. 

Associate Professor Timothy Bredy and his laboratory are elucidating how the genome is connected to the environment through epigenetic modifications, and how this relationship shapes behaviour throughout life. The group is particularly interested in how epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, histone modifications and the activity of non-coding RNAs, regulate the formation and maintenance of memory.