The development of ethologically based behavioural animal models has clarified the anxiolytic properties of a range of neurotransmitter and neuropeptide receptor agonists and antagonists, with several models predicting efficacy in human clinical samples. Neuro-cognitive models of human anxiety and findings from fMRI suggest dysfunction in amygdala-prefrontal circuitry underlies biases in emotion activation and regulation. Cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in emotion processing can be manipulated pharmacologically, and research continues to identify genetic polymorphisms and interactions with environmental risk factors that co-vary with anxiety-related behaviour and neuro-cognitive endophenotypes. This paper describes findings from a range of research strategies in anxiety, discussed at the recent ECNP Targeted Expert Meeting on anxiety disorders and anxiolytic drugs. The efficacy of existing pharmacological treatments for anxiety disorders is discussed, with particular reference to drugs modulating serotonergic, noradrenergic and gabaergic mechanisms, and novel targets including glutamate, CCK, NPY, adenosine and AVP. Clinical and neurobiological predictors of active treatment and placebo response are considered.