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People with anxiety disorder less able to regulate response to negative emotions, study shows
Date:2/10/2010

rain's prefrontal cortex, was activated. That part of the brain then inhibited the amygdala, which acts to dampen or regulate negative emotion.

During this study, the brains of health participants reacted as expected. But for patients with GAD, the pregenual anterior cingulate failed to light up and to inhibit the amygdala, showing something went awry with this circuit. This has never been shown before, Etkin noted.

Understanding that the prefrontal cortex is an important site of abnormality could potentially lead to advances in more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. By targeting this region more directly, clinicians might be able to improve regulation function in GAD patients. Etkin also suspects that a faulty pregenual cingulate-amygdala circuit during unconscious emotion regulation is involved in other psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, so the work could lead to a better understanding of those conditions.

Senior study author Alan Schatzberg, MD, the Kenneth T. Norris, Jr. Professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, noted that the findings bring new insight into the biology of psychopathology, as well as potentially the mechanisms underlying the response to psychotherapy. They could, he said, provide a new way also to gauge the efficacy of therapy.

Etkin said he'll continue his investigations in this area, and use these findings to identify brain signatures that differ among psychiatric disorders, as well as to track the effects of psychotherapy. A grant from the national stimulus package, which was signed into law last year and included $8.2 billion in extramural funding for the National Institutes of Health, will help him continue and expand this work.


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Contact: Michelle Brandt
mbrandt@stanford.edu
650-723-0272
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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