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Anxiety Disorder Patients Process Emotions Differently

MRI scans show abnormal brain activity, researchers say

THURSDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- For those with the common mental illness known as generalized anxiety disorder, a new study has found that the brain processes emotions in abnormal ways.

The study authors say the research could provide new insight into better treatments for people suffering from debilitating anxiety.

"Patients experience anxiety and worry and respond excessively to emotionally negative stimuli, but it's never been clear really why," Dr. Amit Etkin, acting assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and first author of the study, said in a news release.

In the study, researchers gave MRI brain scans to 17 people with generalized anxiety disorder and 24 healthy people. The researchers wanted to understand what happened in participants' brains as they felt various emotions.

The study authors found that the brains of the participants reacted differently in some situations. The findings suggest that the prefrontal cortex is abnormal in people with generalized anxiety disorder, and the researchers think that knowledge could lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Senior study author Dr. Alan Schatzberg, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said in the news release that the findings, published in the February online issue of American Journal of Psychiatry, could lead to greater understanding of the biology of psychopathology and how people respond to psychotherapy.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has information on anxiety disorders.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Feb. 10, 2010

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