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Within the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders and Affective Neuroscience conducts human and translational research aimed at advancing science in this domain. The research is highly collaborative with a dense network of interactions with other laboratories (see below). In general, we utilize a range of neuroimaging techniques (including structural and functional MRI as well as PET) together with genetic, psychophysiological and cognitive neuroscience methods to investigate the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders and related conditions. Further, we use such methods to pursue the development of improved diagnosis and treatment of these disorders as well as to investigate relevant normal brain structure and functions.

Examples of Ongoing Projects

  1. Functional MRI Studies of Amygdalo-cortical Function in Adults with Anxiety Disorders - This project employs fMRI methods together with cognitive neuroscience probes of amygdala (faces) and anterior cingulate (Stroop) function in subjects suffering from PTSD, phobias, or panic disorder, as well as matched healthy controls.

  2. Translational Studies of Extinction Retention - The human studies include experiments of conditioning and extinction using skin conductance response endpoints; whereas additional experiments are being preformed with MRI techniques to identify the structural and functional brain correlates of extinction retention. Following initial studies in healthy human subjects, comparisons will be made between subjects suffering form PTSD and matched controls. Parallel animal studies are ongoing at Ponce Medical School through a collaboration with Gregory Quirk, PhD.

  3. Neuroimaging Studies of PTSD in Twins - Under the direction of Roger Pitman, PET and MRI methods are being used to study monozygotic twins discordant for combat exposure, in order to disentangle the contributions of genes and environment to the etiology of PTSD.

  4. Functional MRI studies of Anxiety Disorders and Behavioral inhibition (BI) in Adolescents and Parents - These high risk longitudinal studies are described in detail under the Laboratory for Developmental Psychopathology, directed by Carl Schwartz.

  5. Translational Studies of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for OCD - In the context of a larger multi-site translational grant (overall PI = Suzanne Haber), entailing tract tracing studies in nonhuman primates (Haber - U Rochester), electrophysiology in rodents (Tony Grace - Pittsburgh), and DBS in a clinical OCD sample of human subjects (Ben Greenberg & Steve Rasmussen - Brown/Butler), at MGH, we will be gathering PET data in human subjects during DBS at a ventral capsule/ventral striatum target to delineate the activation patterns associated with acute stimulation.

  6. Neuroimaging Studies of Psychiatric Neurosurgery - In coordination with the MGH Psychiatric Neurotherapeutics Program and members of The MGH Psychiatric Neurosurgical Committee, PET and MRI studies are ongoing to test hypotheses regarding the changes in brain structure and function that occur as a consequence of anterior cingulotomy for OCD or major affective disorders. We are also investigating neuroimaging predictors of treatment response in this context.

  7. PET Study of Tiagabine for Social Phobia - In conjunction with Drs. Mark Pollack & Naomi Simon, PET data are being gathered to identify brain imaging predictors of response to Tiagabine in social phobia.

  8. Predictors of Treatment Response in PTSD - Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Shin, and in collaboration with Drs. Pollack & Simon, we are gathering PET and MRI data to investigate neuroimaging predictors of treatment response in PTSD.

  9. PET Studies of Panic Disorder - In conjunction with Drs. Robert Banzett and Mark Pollack, PET data will be gathered during provocation with doxapram while also monitoring and regulating respiratory function.
Training Opportunities

Currently there are several fellows, students and research assistants working within the laboratory.


Darin Dougherty, MD MSc
Program Director
Massachusetts General Hospital-East
149 Thirteenth Street, Room 2612
Charlestown, MA 02129
Tel: (617)-724-6143; Fax: (617)726-4078
Publications by Dr. Dougherty

Roger K. Pitman, MD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Psychophysiology Laboratory)
Carl Schwartz, MD (Laboratory for Developmental Psychopathology)
Lisa M. Shin, PhD
Christopher I. Wright, MD, PhD (Laboratory of Aging and Emotion)
Thilo Deckersbach, PhD
Paul A. Cannistraro, MD
Karleyton C. Evans, MD


Mohammed R. Milad, PhD

Jennifer Britton, MS (PhD pending)
Frida Polli, MA

Research Assistants

Andrea Gold, BA
Jane Viner, BA

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The Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders and Affective Neuroscience