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Neuroeconomics to study decision-making in anxious individuals
Date:7/23/2012

Philadelphia, PA, July 23, 2012 Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults each year, and although they are treatable, they often cause significant distress.

The excessive fear and dread that accompanies anxiety disorders clearly influences the everyday decision-making processes of anxious individuals. Despite its importance, "there is surprisingly little research on how anxiety disorders influence decisions," commented neuroscientist Dr. Elizabeth Phelps, who co-authored this new review with Dr. Catherine Hartley, both of New York University.

Their review highlights that science is "starting to gain some traction by combining emerging decision science with the study of anxiety. The overlap in the neural systems underlying anxiety and decision-making provides some insight into how fear and anxiety alters choices," explained Dr. Phelps.

Dr. Hartley added, "Historically, research has focused on the influence of anxiety on how we attend to and interpret events. These same processes should shape how anxious individuals make decisions."

Their review explores the role of anxiety in decision-making using a neuroeconomic approach. Neuroeconomics is an interdisciplinary field that combines tools from the fields of economics, neuroscience, and psychology to study the brain's decision-making processes.

The authors discuss the overlap between the neural systems mediating fear and anxiety and those implicated in studies of economic decision-making. Neuroeconomics research has revealed that circuits involving the amygdala, insular cortex, and prefrontal cortex are involved in tasks with uncertainty or loss. The amygdala is a key brain region that helps regulate fear and anxiety, while the prefrontal cortex is critically involved in the control of fear.

The authors also review a set of decision-making biases exhibited by anxious individuals and propose that the neural circuitry supporting fear l
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Contact: Rhiannon Bugno
Biol.Psych@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-0880
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

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