In addition to the classical neurotransmitters, neuropeptides represent an important class of modulators for affective behaviors and associated disorders, such as anxiety disorders. Many neuropeptides are abundantly expressed in brain regions involved in emotional processing and anxiety behaviors. Moreover, risk factors for anxiety disorders such as stress modulate the expression of various neuropeptides in the brain. Due to the high prevalence of anxiety disorders and yet limited treatment options, there is a clear need for more effective therapeutics. In this regard, the various neuropeptides represent exciting candidates for new therapeutic designs. In this review, I will provide an up-to-date summary on the evidences for the involvement of seven neuropeptides in anxiety: corticotropin-releasing factor, urocortins, vasopressin, oxytocin, substance P, neuropeptide Y and galanin. This review will cover the behavioral effects of these neuropeptides in animal models of anxiety by both genetic and pharmacological manipulations. Human studies indicating a role for these neuropeptides in anxiety disorders will also be discussed.
Keywords: Anxiety, neuropeptides, stress, corticotropin-releasing factor, urocortin, vasopressin, oxytocin, substance P, neuropeptide Y, galanin