This research program seeks to understand the relationship between very early psychological predispositions and physiological states in infants (i.e. temperament) and the development of psychiatric disorder (particularly anxiety and mood disorders) and behavior problems in adolescents and young adults, through studies of cohorts of infants and children who have been followed longitudinally through development. Our laboratory utilizes functional magnetic resonance brain imaging, in conjunction with clinical assessments of psychopathology, direct observation of behavior and social interaction in the laboratory, neuropsychological studies of information processing, and assessment of autonomic reactivity to cognitive and social stress. Thus, we are an interdisciplinary group both in terms of training (psychiatrists, developmental psychologists, neurologists, and neuroscientists are all welcome) and methods (behavioral observation, psychophysiology, structural and functional MRI).
Two temperamental categories of children called behaviorally inhibited and uninhibited are characterized by distinctive responses to unfamiliar people, objects, and situations in the second year of life. Children with an inhibited temperament are timid with people, objects and situations that are novel or unfamiliar, whereas uninhibited children spontaneously approach novel persons, objects and situations. We have demonstrated with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that adults who had been categorized in the second year of life as inhibited, compared with those who had been categorized as uninhibited, showed greater amygdalar activation to unfamiliar vs. familiar neutral faces. These fMRI results suggest that some brain differences due to temperament are preserved from infancy into adulthood. Moreover, an inhibited temperament is a risk factor for the later development of anxiety and affective disorders, particularly social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia. Furthermore, independent longitudinal studies in two different laboratories have revealed infant profiles at four months of age called high reactive and low reactive that biased to become, respectively, inhibited and uninhibited. A five year RO-1 research grant from NIMH supports the replication and extension of our previous psychopathological and fMRI findings, in an independent and larger cohort of 16-17 year olds who have been followed longitudinally, were carefully characterized with respect to temperament by direct laboratory based assessment as 4 month-old infants (high reactive/low reactive), and categorized again as toddlers (inhibited/uninhibited). This project will clarify neural mechanisms for temperamental inhibition and risk for anxiety disorder across a critical developmental period. It will inform, on one hand, future research on psychobiological models of anxiety disorder in children and young adults, and on the other hand, the development of appropriate preventive interventions. A collaboration with Dr. Jordan Smoller who is Director, Psychiatric Genetics Program in Mood and Anxiety Disorders at MGH combines infant temperament assessments with adolescent neuroimaging studies to inform genetic analyses that focus on the development of adolescent anxiety and mood disorders.
A second major ongoing project is collaboration with the Drs. Rosenbaum and Biederman and the Clinical and Research Program in Pediatric Psychiatry Psychopharmacology supported by a second newly awarded five year RO-1 from NIMH. This project utilizes fMRI imaging to investigate the neural substrates of anxiety disorders in parents and their offspring, who are enrolled in a concurrently funded longitudinal study of families at risk for panic disorder, comparison offspring at risk for depression, and children without such vulnerability (directed by Drs. Rosenbaum and Biederman). fMRI cognitive behavioral probes are used to investigate differences in amygdalo-frontal function related to inhibited temperament and parental panic disorder, as factors that confer risk to develop anxiety disorders in adolescents. This unique sample allows us to examine differences in amygdalo-frontal function between adolescents with and without anxiety disorders while controlling for inhibited temperament and parental diagnosis.
There are opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral trainees.
The Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders and Affective Neuroscience
Pediatric Psychopharmacology Department
Carl Schwartz, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital
Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Building 149, 13th Street, Room 2627
Charlestown, MA 02129
Tel: 617/726-8965, Fax: 617/726-4078
Publications by Dr. Schwartz
Pratap Kunwar, M.S., Biomedical Engineer
Lyndsey Moran, B.A., Research Coordinator
Douglas Greve, Ph.D., Neuroscientist, Martinos Center Computational Core
Nancy Snidman, Ph.D., Division of Developmental Medicine, Children’s Hospital
Bradford C. Dickerson, M.D., Department of Neurology, MGH
Chris Wright, M.D., Ph.D., Consultant
Jerome Kagan, Ph.D., Consultant, Professor of Psychology (Emeritus), Harvard University