Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

Born to be shy?

An international mega-analysis on the neurobiological link between inhibited temperament and social anxiety disorder

2021 - 2022
Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam
NWO Rubicon grant NWO Rubicon grant

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), an impairing and life-long mental health condition, is prevalent already in adolescents. Acquiring more insight into the susceptibility to develop SAD is essential, in order to early recognize which children are ‘at risk’ and to advance effective preventive interventions.

SAD ‘runs in families’, indicating that genetic vulnerability is an important risk factor. In this project, which I perform in collaboration with prof. Daniel Pine and his team (National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) and supported by a Rubicon grant from NWO, I aim to investigate the neurobiological characteristics associated with this innate susceptibility. I will focus on individuals characterized with inhibited temperament (IT), a stable and heritable trait which is observable already in early childhood, linked to variations in brain characteristics, and associated with an elevated risk for SAD later in life.

Previous findings on the neurobiological underpinnings of IT are inconsistent, probably due to small sample sizes. In this project, we will pool neuroimaging data from studies on childhood IT, previously acquired at research-centers worldwide. The study will be performed within the framework of the ENIGMA (Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis)-Anxiety Working Group. First, we will assemble T1-weighted structural MRI-scans of the brain, previously acquired at multiple institutes. Subsequently, we will perform mega-analyses on the largest sample related to childhood temperament available to date (current dataset: n = 4681 participants from 16 samples). The study will be preregistered and analyses will start as soon as the preregistered approach has been approved.

This initiative is the first mega-analysis of the neurobiological characteristics associated with the innate risk for developing SAD, with the potential to detect novel IT-related brain alterations and to shed light on the mixed findings of prior work. Thereby, we expect this project to increase our understanding of the pathways leading to (social) anxiety, providing new avenues to prevent the development of psychopathology in youth at risk.

This project is supported by a Rubicon grant from NWO (019.201SG.022) to Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam.

This website uses cookies.  More information.