A behavioural neuroscience perspective on the aetiology and treatment of anxiety disorders.Behav Res Ther. 2014 Nov; 62:24-36.BR
Over the past decades, behaviour and cognitive psychology have produced fruitful and mutually converging theories from which hypotheses could be derived on the nature and origin of fear and anxiety disorders. Notwithstanding the emergence of effective treatments, there are still many questions that remain to be answered. Here, I will argue that the burgeoning field of behavioural neuroscience may advance our understanding of fear, anxiety disorders and its treatments. Decades of fear-conditioning research across species have begun to elucidate the neurobiological mechanisms underlying associative fear learning and memory. The fear-conditioning paradigm provides a well-controlled and fine-grained research platform to examine these processes. Although the traditional fear conditioning paradigm was originally designed to unveil general principles of fear (un)learning, it is well-suited to understand the transition from normal fear to pathological fear and the mechanisms of change. This paper presents 1) a selection of fear conditioning studies on the generalization and persistence of associative fear memory as intermediate phenotypes of fear and anxiety disorders, and 2) insights from neuroscience on the malleability of fear memory with the potential to provide a long-term cure for anxiety and related disorders.