Researchers at The University of Manchester's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences are studying the relationship between the biology of the nervous system, anxiety symptoms and behavioural problems. In particular they are interested in generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and anti-social personality disorder (ASPD).
The £1.3m MRC-sponsored study will use recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scanning) to observe the effect of brain chemicals like serotonin on brain function, with the aim of finding effective treatments for anxiety and anti-social behaviour. It is led by Professor Bill Deakin and Dr Ian Anderson of the Faculty's Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, and will run until summer 2007.
Anxiety disorders like GAD, which involve excessive worrying, are due to changes in the activity of the brain circuits involved in anxiety. Abnormalities in brain serotonin influence these circuits and are therefore targeted by anti-anxiety drugs.
Conditions like ASPD may be the reverse side of the coin, and it is already known that the brain activity of people with problems like this differs from that of healthy volunteers. The team believes that this may also be due to subtle disturbances in the brain's serotonin function.
Previous tests on healthy people relating to impulsiveness, reward and reactions to facial emotions have activated particular networks that are part of the brain's anxiety circuits. The team will therefore use the MRI techniques to watch the brain functioning during such tasks in healthy, anxious and anti-social subjects, to observe differences between the groups and find out how they are affected by changes in serotonin activity.
The team is looking for male volunteers aged 18 ' 60 who are either healthy or suffering from excessive anxiety. The study is based at Manchester Royal Infirmary and participants will be asked to attend the hospital for three consultations, with up to £115 reimbursement available for time and travel commitments. Volunteers will also be entered into a prize draw.
The study will consist of six parts:
1. Screening of candidates for suitability using interviews, reading tests, checklists and questionnaires.
2. Personality measurement using `self-report' questionnaires.
3. Testing of responses to visual stimuli with skin tests and saliva and blood samples.
4. Neuropsychological tests of learning, verbal fluency and impulsivity.
5. MRI brain scans while doing impulse, reward and emotion tasks.
6. Looking at the brain effects of a serotonin-increasing drug during these tasks.
Anyone interested in becoming involved should call the team on 0161 275 7670 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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