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J Anxiety Disord. 1997 Jul-Aug;11(4):409-29.

A neuro-evolutionary approach to the anxiety disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.



Advances in our understanding of the anxiety disorders and in the application of evolutionary principles to medicine provide the possible basis for a neuro-evolutionary approach to these conditions. In this paper, initial steps taken towards such an approach are described.


Neuro-evolutionary accounts of each of the anxiety disorders have been offered. Notably, several of these accounts have suggested that particular anxiety disorders are mediated by specific brain-based false alarms. This paper reviews the strengths and weaknesses of such accounts.


The false suffocation alarm of panic attack is the most fully elaborated of the neuro-evolutionary accounts of an anxiety disorder. However, viable neuro-evolutionary approaches have also been offered for other anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia.


Further work is necessary to consolidate a neuro-evolutionary approach to the anxiety disorders. Although the theoretical basis for such an approach has become increasingly appealing over the last several years, this foundation requires supplementation by further empirical research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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