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Biomedical Engineering Program
B.Sc. 2010, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Thesis Advisor: Richard J. Servatius, Ph.D.
Department of Neurology and Neurosciences
Thursday, September 18, 2014
11:45 A.M., MSB H-609
Nearly twenty percent or 40 million American adults are currently diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders. A large portion of research has been devoted to studying the clinical symptoms of various anxiety conditions in a multitude of populations. While these studies have provided a tremendous amount of data characterizing symptoms and potential treatment options, relatively little has been investigated to better understand anxiety etiology. A growing body of literature has shown that individuals with behavioral inhibition and trait anxiety have an increased likelihood of developing anxiety disorders. United States military members are at a particularly high risk for developing conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their increased exposure to combat trauma. The Department of Defense estimates that 20% of Iraq war veterans are affected by PTSD. Furthermore, there is a 15-22% incidence rate of concussion, classified as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), in US military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Both vulnerability factors and mTBI affect sensorimotor function, behavior, autonomic tone, and attention/memory. However, previous studies that have investigated sensorimotor function in the scope of anxiety vulnerability and mTBI have been limited by their lack of physiological correlates. In the present work, further exploration of the underlying autonomic dynamics and sensorimotor behavior characteristics of anxiety vulnerability and mTBI is conducted in young adults and active duty military members. An evaluation of individual differences and sensorimotor learning/reactivity is presented to determine how temperament accompanying physiological biases affect the interaction between individuals and aversive environmental stimuli. Moreover, while sensorimotor experiments have become commonplace in anxiety research, available software/hardware packages to perform such investigations are costly and proprietary. As an alternative to commercial programs, an open-source software platform is presented that allows researchers to perform sensorimotor experiments in human and animal models utilizing widely available hardware.