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Jenny Cooney

Jenny’s research examines the association of systemic inflammation and anxiety in emerging adulthood, and an overview of her research programme is described below.

Jenny is an Irish Research Council Postgraduate Research Scholar, and is co-supervised by Professor Yvonne Nolan, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC.

Anxiety is the most prevalent psychological disorder, impacting on the lives of more than a third of the global population, and is a leading contributor to the worldwide burden of disease. Often under-treated, anxiety has been associated with heightened inflammation in the body, which may precede increases in symptoms or intensity of anxiety. Recent evidence indicates that anxiety and bodily inflammation are related, but it is not yet known which particular inflammatory factors are important to examine, or how a reduction in inflammation may impact on anxiety.

Identifying the specific inflammatory factors provides an opportunity to develop new targets for interventions that may include behavioural, pharmacological and lifestyle components, as well as for interventions.

This research will systematically review the existing literature to describe the intricacies of the relationship of anxiety and markers of inflammation, and complete empirical research to examine the relationship of anxiety and inflammation in young adults. The empirical study will use blood and saliva samples to determine prevalence and levels of inflammatory markers and psychometric measures of anxiety in young adults. The results will provide candidate markers for interventions, as well as identify potential critical thresholds of inflammatory markers for risk for anxiety.

The research also incorporates a meta-analytic review to identify the most effective interventions for reduction of systemic inflammation reduction. On identifying the interventions with the strongest evidence, a randomised control trial of the intervention(s) will be conducted, with interventions evaluated by change in both inflammation and anxiety.

The findings of the research can be used to inform the development of conceptual models of the association of mental and physical health, as well as the design of interventions for psychobiological health.

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