Longitudinal studies offer a unique window into developmental change. Yet, most of what we know about the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders is based on cross-sectional work. Here, we highlight the importance of adopting a longitudinal approach in order to make progress into the identification of neurobiological mechanisms of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Using examples, we illustrate how longitudinal data can uniquely inform SAD etiology and timing of interventions. The brain’s inherently adaptive quality requires that we model risk correlates of disorders as dynamic in their expression. Developmental theories regarding timing of environmental events, cascading effects and (mal)adaptations of the developing brain will be crucial components of comprehensive, integrative models of SAD. We close by discussing analytical considerations in working with longitudinal, developmental data.
Bibliographical noteCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Funding: SH was supported by a Medical Research Council studentship (Reference: 1242237) and a Scatcherd European Scholarship. CH was supported by an award from the European Research Council (‘Learning & Achievement’, Reference: 338065). KM was funded by a NIH extramural grant (Reference: R01MH107418). ASD is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.