Challenges in developing novel treatments for childhood disorders: Lessons from research on anxiety

Daniel S. Pine, Sarah M. Helfinstein, Yair Bar-Haim, Eric Nelson, Nathan A. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Alterations in brain development may contribute to chronic mental disorders. Novel treatments targeted toward the early-childhood manifestations of such chronic disorders may provide unique therapeutic opportunities. However, attempts to develop and deliver novel treatments face many challenges. Work on pediatric anxiety disorders illustrates both the inherent challenges as well as the unusual opportunities for therapeutic advances. The present review summarizes three aspects of translational research on pediatric anxiety disorders as the work informs efforts to develop novel interventions. First, the review summarizes data on developmental conceptualizations of anxiety from both basic neuroscience and clinical perspectives. This summary is integrated with a discussion of the two best-established treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Second, the review summarizes work on attention bias to threat, considering implications for both novel treatments and translational research on neural circuitry functional development. This illustrates the manner in which clinical findings inform basic systems neuroscience research. Finally, the review summarizes work in basic science on fear learning, as studied in fear conditioning, consolidation, and extinction paradigms. This summary ends by describing potential novel treatments, illustrating the manner in which basic neuroscience informs therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-228
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


FundersFunder number
National Science Foundation
National Institute of Mental HealthZIAMH002873


    • Adolescents
    • Amygdala
    • Anxiety
    • Attention
    • Children
    • Conditioning


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