New £52,000 study commissioned to help people living with anxiety

  • Thursday, April 26, 2018

Potential improvements for people living with anxiety will be evaluated in this new three year £52,000 proof of concept study.

The research project funded by the Rosetrees Trust is due to start in July and will be led by Professor Paul Allen from the Department of Psychology at Roehampton. The aim of the study is to demonstrate an improvement in a person’s concentration when feeling anxious by helping them to direct their attention away from worrying thoughts. According to Anxiety UK, the most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that there are approximately 3 million people in the UK living with an anxiety disorder.

Recently, a team of researchers at Roehampton have successfully combined behavioural training with state-of-the-art real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rtfMRI) neuro-feedback techniques to help people living with schizophrenia. This involves simultaneously measuring and analysing a person’s brain signal during a MRI scan. The technique allows individuals to voluntarily take control of their own brain activity through a brain-computer game interface. Please see the article here.

Building on this pioneering research by combining rtfMRI with a visual attentional control task, a participant can learn to progressively alter their brain activity patterns in real-time, improving attentional control and concentration. This may allow anxious people to be less distracted by worry, ultimately reducing anxiety levels.

Professor Paul Allen said “Anxiety disorders are some of the most common psychiatric conditions in currently and conventional treatments are ineffective for many sufferers. The pilot aims to evaluate the feasibility of a rtfMRI training protocol for people with high trait anxiety. If proof-of-concept is successful the procedure could be applied to clinical anxiety disorders”.

The Rosetrees Trust is a private, family funded charity, formed in 1987 to support medical research. 100% of the Department of Psychology research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for its impact (REF 2014).