"Once fear develops, it becomes self-perpetuating," Craske said.
Study of 7-to-12-Year Olds Craske, with her colleagues Ornitz and Naliboff, as well as Lindsey Bergman, associate director of the UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety, and Tics Disorders Program, has recently completed a second study, also funded by the NIMH, of 7-to-12-year-olds. Some were anxious, some were not anxious but had anxious parents, and in some cases, neither the children nor the parents were anxious (Craske said this third group was surprisingly hard to find).
Sixty-five children participated in the study. The results were recently published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.
Research has shown that children with anxious parents are about 3.5 times more at risk for anxiety than those whose parents are not anxious. Craske is studying whether the children with anxious parents are showing early signs of underlying mechanisms for anxiety.
"In the presence of a mildly threatening experience, do they learn to become afraid more quickly and more strongly than someone else?" she asked. "Do they hold on to those fears for longer?"
Craske and her colleagues measured physiological responses to a cue that was associated with or "conditioned" to a brief, loud noise. They then measured how fast these responses disappeared or extinguished when the cue was presented without the loud noise. They found an increase in sweat gland activity during the conditioning phase in anxiety-disordered children, and less extinction of this response in the at-risk children to cues that signaled the loud noise and also cues that did not signal the loud noise.
These findings suggest that anxiety and risk for anxiety in children are associated with "elevated excitatory responding to 'threat' cues and impaired inhibition of responses to 'safe' cues," according to Craske. The latter finding
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles