Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Professor Neil McNaughton Research Interests

 Professor Neil McNaughton

Tel 64 3 479 7634
Visit Professor McNaughton's profile

Neurobiology of State and Trait Anxiety and Temporal-Frontal Lobe Interactions

My research combines psychological analysis of emotion and memory with physiological analysis of the rhythmical electrical activity called “theta” in both rats and humans.

I use the effects of anxiolytic drugs to link the psychological and physiological levels of analysis and to generalize from laboratory experiments to clinical situations. Anxiolytic drugs reduce anxiety in the clinic, independently of chemical type. I have shown, in rats, that they all impair theta and so the function of the temporal lobe - which is thought to be crucial for some types of memory. I have used a broad range of techniques to allow both neural and psychological analysis. Single unit and evoked potential analysis have mapped and assessed the functioning of neural pathways of interest; recording during psychological tasks allowed detailed pharmacological analysis. Each type of analysis guides research in the other areas.

Currently, at the neural level, we are investigating the pharmacology and neural control of hippocampal theta activity and its relation to theta recorded from frontal cortex. This includes the use a “brain bypass” and other techniques to restore function after neural damage. At the psychological level, we are analyzing the human EEG for specific neural signatures of goal conflict and linking this to personality measures and the neuroeconomic theory.


McNaughton, N., Swart, C., Neo, P. S-H., Bates, V., Glue, P. Anti-anxiety drugs reduce conflict-specific “theta” – a possible human anxiety-specific biomarker. Journal of Affective Disorders, 148, 104-111 (2013)

McNaughton, N. Development of a theoretically-derived human anxiety syndrome biomarker. Translational Neuroscience, 5, 137-146 (2014)

McNaughton, N., Corr, P. J. Mechanisms of comorbidity, continuity, and discontinuity in anxiety-related disorders. Development and Psychopathology. In press (2016)

McNaughton, N., Ruan, M., Woodnorth, M-A. Restoring theta-like rhythmicity in rats restores initial learning in the Morris water maze. Hippocampus, 16, 1102-1110 (2006)\

McNaughton, N., Corr, P.J. A two-dimensional neuropsychology of defense: fear/anxiety and defensive distance.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 28, 285-305 (2004)


Gray, J.A. and McNaughton, N. The Neuropsychology of Anxiety: an enquiry into the functions of the septo-hippocampal system. (2nd edition) Oxford University Press (2000) 424p

e-book also available at:

With 10 electronic appendices originally published on the Oxford University Press website at:
Appendix 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10  (PDF's)

McNaughton, N. Biology and Emotion. Cambridge University Press (1989) 228p.

^ Top of Page