The psychobiology of anxiolytic drugs. Part 1: Basic neurobiology

Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Dec;88(3):197-212. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(00)00082-6.


The authors provide an overview of the current state of knowledge with regards to the neurobiological mechanisms involved in normal and pathological anxiety. A brief review of the classification and cognitive psychology of anxiety is followed by a more in-depth look at the neuroanatomical and neurochemical processes and their relevance to our understanding of the modes of action of anxiolytic drugs. The serotonergic, noradrenergic, and gamma-aminobutyric acidergic systems are reviewed. The numerous physiological and pharmacological methods of anxiety provocation and the increasing importance of functional neuroimaging are also examined. The review provides an overview of the biology and basic pharmacology of anxiolytic drugs, and compliments the more clinically oriented companion review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Serotonin / pharmacology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Serotonin