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Mood & Anxiety Disorders


Mood (affective) and anxiety disorders are common brain diseases that affect over 15% of the United States population. Mood disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. Suicidal behavior is common in many psychiatric illnesses, but it occurs with a particularly high frequency in patients with mood disorders. On the individual level, these disorders can affect our state of feeling, the pleasure we perceive from life events, or the degree to which we worry about impending events. These disorders are pervasive and are often progressive in nature, while being associated with increased morbidity and mortality, as well as decreased academic, occupational, and social functioning. They are commonly strongly associated with heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and many endocrine abnormalities and neurological conditions.

Members of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Focus Group have diverse interests, which range from preclinical psychopharmacological studies in rodents, to human epidemiological studies designed to identify novel risk factors for suicide. The group encourages multilayer approaches, both within the group and through national and international collaborations, to address critical questions relevant to major outcomes such as remission, recurrence, and suicide. Preclinical (basic science) investigators in the Focus Group use techniques that range from studies of rodent behaviors to biochemical and genetic approaches. Studies of brain-immune system interaction, genetic manipulations in mice, postmortem brain tissue analysis, and biochemical and molecular biology studies are all used to help understand the underlying neurobiology of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as to develop novel treatment ideas. Many of the clinical studies conducted by interest group members focus on environmental triggers for exacerbation of mood disorders to help understand the underlying neurobiology and develop novel interventions and treatments. Another focus of interest are behavioral sequelae of alterations in biological time keeping. Interactions between biological rhythms (such as endogenous infradian, circadian, and seasonal), sleep and wake, and light and dark, are studied in cell cultures, acute brain slices, rodents and patients with mood disorders. Mood and anxiety disorders are viewed in a broad sense where epidemiological studies interface with studies on a smaller scale. This broad range of interests and expertise encourages translational studies that make use of techniques of preclinical neuroscience to influence clinical and epidemiological studies and vice versa.

Like most human diseases, patients with mood and anxiety disorders have an underlying genetic or early developmental susceptibility, which may or may not lead to disease depending upon environmental exposures. Important future tasks for research include identifying genes that predispose to mood and anxiety disorders, determining how various genetic susceptibilities interact with specific environmental triggers, and using this information to assist in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Members and critical collaborators of this focus group have their primary appointments in many departments within the University of Maryland Medical Center including Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Endocrinology, Medicine, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Physiology, School of Nursing, and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy.