Social Anxiety and Risk for Social Anxiety in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses among adolescents. Behavioral inhibition is an early-life predisposition to withdraw from novel, social stimuli that predicts high risk for adolescent anxiety, particularly social anxiety. With funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), my work in this area focuses on whether adolescents with social anxiety or a history of temperamental risk for anxiety (i.e., due to behavioral inhibition) share anomalies in amygdala, striatal and prefrontal circuitry reflecting hypersensitivity to motivationally salient nonsocial and social stimuli. These studies examine behavioral and neural responses to anticipated monetary rewards and avoided monetary losses and to anticipated and receipt of peer evaluation. In addition to anxiety and temperament, age- and gender-related variations in behavioral and neural responses are examined. Extensions of this work are also underway using other methods to track individual differences in eye movements and psychophysiological responses to similar stimuli.