Research Overview 

What is the purpose of the study?

The purpose of this study is to investigate how early life trauma during childhood development may contribute to and affect individuals, who develop an anxiety condition known as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), later in life. Early developmental trauma may range from a single traumatic childhood experience to ongoing childhood abuse or neglect.

What does the research title mean?  

The research title is: 'Neurobiological mechanisms in social anxiety disorder in the context of early developmental trauma: A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study’. The researchers are interested in investigating how specific parts of the brain function and perhaps differ between individuals with SAD and early trauma, individuals with SAD without early trauma and individuals without either SAD or early life trauma. We will be examining these differences through a fMRI machine, which scans the brain and produces a video indicating which parts of the brain are more active under conditions similar to those encountered in SAD.    


Who will the study examine?  

The study will examine individuals with SAD who have had an early trauma in their lives and individuals who have SAD without early trauma in their lives as well as healthy volunteers who have had neither an early trauma nor suffer from SAD.


What will the researchers aim to do in order to complete the study?

We aim to include between 75 - 90 participants in total. The study will explore the differences between these individuals in order to find out how early trauma during childhood affects the later development of SAD and if early childhood trauma makes SAD manifest differently in some individuals. We will also be scanning individuals in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine (fMRI Machine), to find out how their brains function with SAD and what contributions early developmental trauma has specifically on this functioning. With consent, blood will be drawn to examine each individuals DNA, as there are specific genes that have been found to increase peoples’ vulnerability towards anxiety and SAD specifically.   


Is this a treatment study?

This is not a treatment study.  Information collected in this study is intended for research purposes only and for the completion of a PhD. This information will help others in the future treatment and research of SAD and early developmental trauma.


Who are we looking for?

We are looking for individuals with a diagnosis of SAD, who are 21 years and older. Participation in the study is voluntary.

If you wish to find out more about this study please contact me:

David Rosenstein (Principle Investigator) at or go to contact me page

 This study is being conducted through the University Stellenbosch department of Psychiatry (Ethics number N09/09/226, and ethics committee for human research contact telephone number: 021-938 9207)