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Chinks in the brain circuitry make some more vulnerable to anxiety
Date:2/10/2011

Why do some people fret over the most trivial matters while others remain calm in the face of calamity? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified two different chinks in our brain circuitry that explain why some of us are more prone to anxiety.

Their findings, published today (Thursday, Feb. 10) in the journal Neuron may pave the way for more targeted treatment of chronic fear and anxiety disorders. Such conditions affect at least 25 million Americans and include panic attacks, social phobias, obsessive-compulsive behavior and post-traumatic stress disorder.

n the brain imaging study, researchers from UC Berkeley and Cambridge University discovered two distinct neural pathways that play a role in whether we develop and overcome fears. The first involves an overactive amygdala, which is home to the brain's primal fight-or-flight reflex and plays a role in developing specific phobias.

The second involves activity in the ventral prefrontal cortex, a neural region that helps us to overcome our fears and worries. Some participants were able to mobilize their ventral prefrontal cortex to reduce their fear responses even while negative events were still occurring, the study found.

"This finding is important because it suggests some people may be able to use this ventral frontal part of the brain to regulate their fear responses even in situations where stressful or dangerous events are ongoing," said UC Berkeley psychologist Sonia Bishop, lead author of the paper.

"If we can train those individuals who are not naturally good at this to be able to do this, we may be able to help chronically anxious individuals as well as those who live in situations where they are exposed to dangerous or stressful situations over a long time frame," Bishop added.

Bishop and her team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the brains of 23 healthy adults. As their brains were
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Contact: Yasmin Anwar
yanwar@berkeley.edu
510-643-7944
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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