Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


The Brain and Escitalopram in Anxiety and Depression Study (BEADS)

Anxiety-related mental health conditions

Anxiety is a normal experience that humans feel when under threat. However, anxiety can also become a health concern when it is excessive and disrupts day-to-day life. This is unfortunately the case for a large number of people, affecting around 1 in 6 people in the UK in a given week. These anxiety-related mental health conditions can take many forms, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and phobias.

Treatments for anxiety, such as antidepressants or psychological therapy, are available, yet these do not work for everybody, leaving millions of anxious individuals untreated. The only way to improve this situation is through scientific research.

About the study

The UCL Neuroscience and Mental Health Group are running a research study on how antidepressants work in the treatment of anxiety, so that we can inform future treatment strategies. Specifically, we are seeking two groups of people to help us in our research: individuals experiencing frequent and potentially disruptive anxiety, and also individuals with no history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.

What will the study involve?

This study involves taking an antidepressant (escitalopram) or placebo for 14-21 days, with behavioural and neuroimaging (fMRI) testing prior to and after the treatment. Some tasks will involve non-harmful electrical shocks, comparable to a rubber band being snapped against the skin.

The study will involve three sessions in total. Visit one(1.5-2 hours) will determine your suitability for the study, based on past and present mood/experiences and health-related contraindications that might make you unsuitable to take the antidepressant or to have a MRI scan. Visits two and three(2.5 hours each) will involve completing computerised tasks both outside and inside the MRI scanner. Some of these tasks will be performed under threat of unpredictable mild electrical shock (to induce temporary anxiety). Between these two sessions, you will also be given either escitalopram or placebo (you will not know which it is) to take once per day

This study has received ethical approval from the UCL Research Ethics Committee (reference number: 6198_002).

What are the benefits of taking part?

Participants will aid in much-needed research on treatments for anxiety and how we can improve them. Participants will also be reimbursed for their time spent on-site at £50 for full participation in the study.

Where can I get more information?

More detailed information can be found on our: 


We would also ask for your consent before your participation in our study, for which a sample form can be found here.

You can also get in touch regarding any questions at ICN.SSRIstudy@ucl.ac.uk

How can I get involved?

If you're interested in participating, please fill in this online screening: https://redcap.idhs.ucl.ac.uk/surveys/?s=K9TDC4CP73

Will my data be protected?

Our study is conducted in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation. More information about your rights as a participant can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/individuals-rights/.


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