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Professors at Purchase College and Columbia University Receive More Than $500,000 in Grants to Study New Ways to Reduce Anxiety Disorders

Purchase, NY (PRWEB) September 25, 2013

A new way of treating anxiety disorders may soon be possible, thanks to research to be conducted by a Purchase College, SUNY professor and a neuropsychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) of Columbia University. The research is made possible by just-issued grants totaling more than a half-million dollars.

The new treatment is based on subliminal stimuli to reduce anxiety and fear, adding an innovative twist to the treatment of anxiety disorders.

The studies will be conducted by Dr. Paul Siegel, a Purchase College psychology professor, and Dr. Bradley Peterson, Director of the Center for Developmental Neuropsychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) of Columbia University, under a $465,000, two-year research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, and a $60,000, two-year Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. The Young Investigator grant provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research on mental illness.

“These grants will fund combined brain-imaging treatment studies in which phobic individuals are exposed to their feared stimuli without conscious awareness,” explains Dr. Siegel. “Using subliminal stimuli is a different approach to the standard treatment of phobias, which involves prolonged exposure to feared stimuli, known as cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Siegel has been testing his subliminal stimulus hypothesis in studies at Purchase College for seven years. As a result of the new funding, he says the researchers can now utilize brain imaging to test how phobic fear can be reduced without the patient being aware it is happening.

“We are aiming to show how the brain can automatically learn to be less fearful,” Siegel says. This, he says, can lead “to new adjunctive treatments of anxiety disorders that support behavior therapy.”

The research will take place at the recently renovated Brain Imaging Lab at NYSPI/ Columbia University, as well as at Dr. Siegel’s Purchase College psychology lab. Funding from the grants will allow a recent Purchase College graduate, Richard Warren, to be the lead research assistant of the project, and enable Purchase College senior psychology majors to conduct their senior projects based on the research.

“This will be a once-in-an-education opportunity for the students involved in this project,” Siegel says.

About Purchase College - SUNY: Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. His aspirations for Purchase were to combine on one campus conservatory training in the visual and performing arts with programs in the liberal arts and sciences. Today, Purchase College–SUNY is a community of students, faculty, and friends where open-minded engagement with the creative process leads to a lifetime of intellectual growth and professional opportunity. For more information about the College, visit

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