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ELM STUDY - Background Information


Why is this research important?

Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders in Australia and worldwide. Anxiety disorders that start in childhood and adolescence tend to lead to more severe impairment across the lifespan. Importantly, effective treatments for anxiety disorders in young people are lacking, with over 50% of young people with disorder not responding to first-line treatments.


Childhood and adolescence are periods of dramatic hormonal changes and brain development. These changes may make individuals more likely to experience problems with emotional learning and memory. For example, some research has shown that adolescents, compared to adults, are less able to learn about whether some things in their environment are threatening or safe. These changes and differences in younger people might make them more vulnerable to developing an anxiety disorder. However, there are substantial gaps in current knowledge about the causes of anxiety disorders across different ages (i.e., during childhood versus adolescence versus adulthood). The current study aims to close this gap by investigating how the brain functions during emotional learning and memory in children, adolescents and adults, and how this may be affected by hormones. We are also interested in the role of family environment in affecting anxiety in young people. We hope that this research can help to improve health and wellbeing for young Australians.


This study will examine brain activation during an emotional learning and memory task in three different age groups, including children, adolescents, and adults. Further, we aim to examine associations between hormones, anxiety, and brain function in these three groups.

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