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The University of Southampton

Southampton leads international research exchange to help patients with anxiety disorders

Published: 7 February 2012
Professor David Baldwin

Researchers from the University of Southampton are leading an international research exchange that aims to develop a greater understanding of anxiety disorders and develop more effective treatments for patients.

The joint European and South African Research Network in Anxiety Disorders (EUSARNAD) study involves 13 centres of excellence for research into anxiety disorders and builds on the Anxiety Disorders Research Network (ADRN).

The research programme aims to strengthen existing links and develop collaborative work with the University of Cape Town, and will allow South African researchers first-hand experience of certain research methodologies in European centres. Moreover, it will help European investigators to develop greater understanding of the origin of anxiety disorders and problems in their management within an emerging country, and enhance the relevance of translational research activity to other developing societies.

David Baldwin, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Southampton and Coordinator of the EUSARNAD study, says: “Anxiety disorders are common, distressing and impairing conditions – but many people remain undiagnosed and the standard of care received is usually sub-optimal. Although advances in genetics, neuroscience, pharmacology and psychology research have all deepened our understanding of anxiety disorders, on an individual basis it remains difficult to predict who will become troubled by symptoms and difficult to make treatment decisions which would result in better clinical outcomes for the patient. An international collaborative network for sharing clinical databases, refining research methodologies, and developing and evaluating innovative treatments, which is what the EUSARNAD study aims to do, will give us a greater understanding of the causes of anxiety disorders and be able to develop and improve delivery of better treatments.”

During the two-year study, individual exchange researchers will be affiliated to existing clinical research teams in each of the participating institutions. They will have access to the knowledge and expertise at each centre. They may also be able to attend postgraduate training programmes within the host institutions.

The first exchange researcher, Sonja Pasche, a clinical psychologist, joined the University of Southampton last October. She says: “Being based at Southampton has provided me with fantastic exposure to new ideas and clinical practice, and has allowed me to explore the overlap between anxiety and substance use disorders.”

This is the first time such a research exchange has been undertaken. South Africa offers many opportunities to gain new and additional insights into the mechanisms that underlie and maintain anxiety disorders.

Professor Baldwin comments: “Collaboration with the University of Cape Town in South Africa allows us access to unique genetic populations; a pattern of exposure to infectious agents which differs to that in Europe; and access to a range of clinical groups that allow important questions about anxiety to be explored in more detail than would be possible within Europe. The scheme could help harmonise research and clinical databases, improve research methodologies, refine prediction of clinical outcome and encourage evaluation of innovative interventions.”

The EUSARNAD study is funded by the European Union through the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES). EUSARNAD includes 13 centres of excellence for research into anxiety disorders at the universities of: Southampton, Bristol, Hertfordshire, Leiden, Groningen, Göttingen, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Tartu, Milan, Cantabria, Tel Aviv and Cape Town.


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