MQ: Transforming Mental Health
A charity funding mental health research
Dr. rer. nat.
Senior Research Fellow
- Research Psychologist
- Psychologische Psychotherapeutin (CBT)
Using neuroscience to develop ultra-brief combination treatments for anxiety disorders
Our research aims to identify the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying emotional disorders and their successful treatment, using behavioural and functional brain imaging approaches. We then use this knowledge to develop novel, ultra-brief psychological-pharmacological combination treatments, logically based on these key effects. Traditional cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) courses for anxiety disorders are long and time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to access.
We have recently shown that a well-designed single session of CBT already leads to drastic improvements in anxiety, with one third of patients being symptom free. Most importantly, this work has identified a neuropsychological mechanism that determines how well patients recover after CBT, with those patients improving particularly well who show a stronger attenuation in attention bias for threat stimuli immediately after CBT. Such findings have wide implications for the development of novel treatments. They suggest that optimal treatment doses might be much lower than previously thought, and that identifying add-on treatments boosting early bias reduction has the potential to develop minimal CBT designs into stand-alone treatments. Our current work explores the potential of several cognitive enhancers, such as the antibiotic cycloserine or the antihypertensive drug losartan, in improving CBT for anxiety disorders by targeting its underlying mechanisms of action.
Our work is funded by the Medical Research Council, The Oxford University Press John Fell Fund, and MQ: Transforming Mental Health.
If you are suffering from panic disorder you may be eligible for one of our on-going studies offering free cognitive-behaviour treatment. Please get in touch for more information.
Zika O. et al, (2023)
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Blackwell SE. et al, (2023)