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  • Cited by 14
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: January 2011

12 - RST and clinical disorders: anxiety and depression

Summary

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Isaac Newton

To borrow Sir Isaac Newton's metaphor, Jeffrey Gray's shoulders must be getting very sore as there are many researchers standing on them including neuroscientists, personality psychologists and psychopathologists. This is because one of the most distinctive aspects and strengths of Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) is that it bridges several levels of analysis: anatomy, physiology, motivation, conditioning, personality and psychopathology. Regarding anxiety, Gray (1982; Gray and McNaughton 2000) proposed that individual differences in reactivity of the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) – a sub-system of the conceptual nervous system – not only underlies the normal personality dimension of trait anxiety/neuroticism but also underlies vulnerability to the anxiety disorders. At the anatomical level, Gray (1982) originally proposed that the septo-hippocampal system (SHS) constituted the sub-system of the central nervous system that is the seat of the BIS. Gray and McNaughton (2000) expanded the neuroanatomical seat of anxiety to include the interactions of the SHS system with the amygdala.

One can derive at least three broad sets of predictions based on RST that are directly relevant for anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder (MDD). First, predictions can be derived regarding the general structure of the various symptoms of the anxiety disorders. Relatedly, RST also provides a useful framework for understanding the relations of anxiety with panic and depression.

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