The neurobiology of anxiety across development and sex

Research Opportunity
PhD
Location
Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Associate Professor Sarah Whittle swhittle@unimelb.edu.au 83441958 Personal web page

Summary This study aims to characterise the neurobiology of fear learning (a key mechanism in anxiety) in children, adolescents and adults, and investigate the role of pubertal hormones. Knowledge gained will have implications for understanding the etiology and treatment of anxiety disorders.

Project Details

Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders worldwide and onset is early in life, with 50% of cases diagnosed during childhood. Further, females are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder as compared to males, with this sex difference appearing as early as age 6. Despite a clear clinical need, adequate treatments for anxiety disorders in youth are lacking.

Childhood and adolescence are periods of dramatic hormonal changes and brain development; these changes render individuals at risk for impaired emotion regulation, and in particular, vulnerability to anxiety disorders. However, there are substantial gaps in our knowledge about the biological mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders across developmental periods (i.e., during childhood versus adolescence), and contributing to the higher prevalence in females. It has recently been proposed that knowledge of the biological mechanisms of anxiety is crucial for progress in identifying effective treatments.

We are currently seeking an academically high-performing student with a background in psychology, and/or neuroscience to be involved in a new large study that aims to characterise the neurobiology of fear learning (a key mechanism in anxiety) in children, adolescents and adults, and investigate the role of pubertal hormones. Knowledge gained will have implications for understanding the etiology and treatment of anxiety disorders.

The study will be conducted across the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre (University of Melbourne) and the Royal Children’s Hospital. Candidates will be required to contribute to data collection, data analysis and manuscript preparation. The candidate will be supervised primarily by Associate Professor Sarah Whittle, and will work with a team of PhD students and research assistants.

The successful applicant should have an undergraduate and/or honours degree in a relevant field and have good results (first or upper second class honours or equivalent). Prospective PhD and combined PhD/Masters students are encouraged to apply. Research experience in neuroimaging will be looked upon favourably. Students with their own scholarship funding are welcomed.



Faculty Research Themes

Neuroscience

School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry



Research Opportunities

PhD
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Research Node

Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

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