The Neurogenetics of Anxiety Disorders

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Faculty Mentor:
Julie Miwa, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
Students on the team this summer:
Brandon Hocking ’22, Behavioral Neuroscience
Ella Imhof ’23, Bioengineering
Miguel Martinez ’21, Behavioral Neuroscience / Music Composition
Marley Sorbello ’21, Biological Sciences (Molecular Biology)
Project Description: This project is working toward identifying genetic linkages of anxiety and
cognitive disorders in the population, and consists of a series of bioinformatics subprojects aimed at
exploring gene mutations which could underlie neuropsychiatric disorders. Students on this team will
enagaged in analyses of DNA databases, data analysis of complex traits and genes, DNA sequencing,
and exploring psychological tests of cognitive traits. In the near term, the project can help to identify
a subpopulation of people with a predisposition to anxiety disorders; the ultimate goal is to help
develop a personalized medicine approach for intractable anxiety. Providing a biological basis for
anxiety disorders helps to destigmatize the disorder and direct individuals to the appropriate
treatments. The identification of a world-wide genetic risk connected to anxiety disorders could lead
to a new treatment beyond the current treatments, which are short-term and do not address the root
cause. If successful, this strategy could restore the synaptic imbalances (e.g. plasticity) underlying the
over-activation of anxiety-based brain structures over a long term.
Month/Year Project Began: June 2020