1. Summary of the research plan
Anxiety and stressor-related disorders are major contributors to the global burden of disease and pose a great challenge on individuals, their loved ones, and society at large. In order to develop innovative interventions, a better understanding of underlying brain abnormalities in these disorders is imperative. This research project aims to investigate intrinsic functional connectivity in anxiety and stressor-related disorders. More specifically, the project will compare alteration/abnormalities in intrinsic functional connectivity between patients with panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and healthy controls. The novelty of this project lies in investigating the connectivity between the striatum, a region only recently implicated in anxiety disorders, with the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex – three of the key brain regions in both PD and PTSD. Furthermore, another aim is to examine how functional connectivity patterns, combined with sociodemographic characteristics could predict the diagnosis of PD or PTSD. The project will use resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) data from a large cohort of participants from the ENIGMA consortium (ENIGMA- Anxiety and ENIGMA-PTSD). The findings are expected to enrich the growing body of literature examining the underlying similarities and differences in brain function across two of the most prevalent anxiety and stressor-related disorders and shed more light on the involvement of the nuclei of the striatum. Knowledge of the cortico-subcortical connectivity may help in the development of advanced targeted interventions such as neurostimulation that can influence the pathological networks by targeting and stimulating the more accessible cortical regions.
2.3.1 Research objectives:
1. To examine the common and distinct intrinsic functional connectivity between each of the three striatal nuclei and each of the amygdala, hippocampus, and PFC, in three diagnostic groups, PD, PTSD, and healthy controls.
2. To investigate whether intrinsic connectivity values between the above-mentioned brain regions, in combination with sociodemographic variables and treatment status can predict the diagnostic group.