Novel Paradigm for Modulating Emotion Regulation with Non-invasive Brain Stimulation in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

2024 Award: $103,931

Our aim is to explore an innovative approach to addressing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and its treatment limitations. Our proposed method integrates real-life scenario simulations and comprehensive brain stimulation with alternating current stimulation, designed to reflect daily experiences for individuals with GAD. This holistic approach aims to increase accessibility across diverse populations, bridging the gap between controlled study conditions and real-world complexities. Additionally, incorporating simultaneous functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) allows for tracking mechanistic specificity, providing valuable insights into individual neural responses during treatment. Our study aims to generate essential data for large-scale grant applications, contributing to the development of more effective interventions for GAD and advancing anxiety disorder treatments.

Need/Problem: Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Grant Summary: This grant proposal addresses the urgent need for innovative treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) amidst the ongoing mental health crisis. Current interventions show limited efficacy, especially considering the increasing prevalence of anxiety disorders, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal aims to fill this gap by investigating a novel brain stimulation protocol that targets specific neural networks involved in emotion regulation. By combining transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) with real-life emotion induction using movie stimuli and simultaneous fMRI, the study aims to understand the feasibility, specificity, and efficacy of this intervention in modifying neural circuits implicated in GAD. Successful outcomes from this study will not only advance our understanding of tACS modulation in real-life emotional contexts but also contribute crucial insights into the development of personalized therapeutic strategies targeting GAD-related neural circuitry.

Goals and Projected Outcomes: The study has the following aims:

  • Aim 1: Identify the unique oscillatory profile of brain activity driving anxiety to tailor interventions specifically for GAD.
  • Aim 2: Assess how the state of the brain during stimulation shapes the response to stimulation.
  • Aim 3: Demonstrate successful modulation of neural targets of interest using tACS combined with fMRI, providing specificity regarding the mechanism of action.
  • Projected outcomes: the development of more effective and personalized treatment approaches, substantially improving outcomes for individuals with GAD.

Agnieszka Zuberer, PhD