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Correlations between facial emotion recognition and public speaking simulation with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the amygdala-hippocampus complex in the social anxiety spectrum

Grant number: 08/07025-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): February 01, 2009
Effective date (End): October 31, 2011
Field of knowledge:Health Sciences - Medicine - Psychiatry
Principal Investigator:Jaime Eduardo Cecilio Hallak
Grantee:João Paulo Machado de Sousa
Host Institution: Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto (FMRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil


Rationale: fear and anxiety are important evolutive acquisitions that favor individual integrity and adequate performance in different contexts. Neuropsychological disturbances may cause dysfunctional activation of these adaptive reactions impairing the individual's life and constituting the so-called anxiety disorders. Among those, social anxiety - currently regarded as a severity continuum rather than a distinct nosological entity - is described as a condition where one or more symptoms that impair performance in interpersonal contexts are present, ranging from mild shyness to extreme situations of contact avoidance and panic attacks. Research using neuroimaging techniques has shown that individuals with social anxiety traits have morphological and neurochemical alterations in different regions of the brain, with special emphasis to the amygdala-hippocampus complex. This evidence is complemented by cognitive/behavioral studies which suggest that affected individuals have impaired facial emotion recognition abilities and altered psychophysiological responses during the speaking in public simulation test, a widely used model for inducing anxiety both in affected individuals and healthy volunteers. Objective: to correlate data about the neurochemical composition of the amygdala-hippocampus complex in volunteers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and subclinical social anxiety (scSAD) with measures acquired during the public speaking simulation test and during the performance of a computerized facial emotion recognition task. Method: three groups will be enrolled: the first composed by volunteers with SAD, the second with the subclinical form of the disorder (scSAD), and the third composed by healthy volunteers. Participants will undergo a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H1MRS) exam of the amygdala-hippocampus complex, the speaking in public simulation test, and a facial emotion recognition task. Hypotheses: (1) patients with SAD and scSAD present different concentrations of the compounds measured through the H1MRS as compared to healthy controls; (2) such alterations differ between the two patient groups; and (3) the differences in the neurochemical composition of the amygdala-hippocampus complex correlate with measures of the public speaking simulation test and the facial emotion recognition task.

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