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UW researchers discover the brain origins of variation in pathological anxiety
Date:3/25/2013

Madison, Wis. New findings from nonhuman primates suggest that an overactive core circuit in the brain, and its interaction with other specialized circuits, accounts for the variability in symptoms shown by patients with severe anxiety. In a brain-imaging study to be published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health describe work that for the first time provides an understanding of the root causes of clinical variability in anxiety disorders.

Using a well-established nonhuman primate model of childhood anxiety, the scientists identified a core circuit that is chronically over-active in all anxious individuals, regardless of their particular pattern of symptoms. They also identified a set of more specialized circuits that are over- or under-active in individuals prone to particular symptoms, such as chronically high levels of the stress-hormone cortisol.

"These findings provide important new insights into altered brain functioning that explain why people with anxiety have such different symptoms and clinical presentations, and it also gives us new ideas, based on an understanding of altered brain function, for helping people with different types of anxiety,'' says Dr. Ned Kalin, senior author, chair of Psychiatry and director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.

"There is a large need for new treatment strategies, because our current treatments don't work well for many anxious adults and children who come to us for help."

In the study, key anxiety-related symptoms were measured in 238 young rhesus monkeys using behavioral and hormonal measurement procedures similar to those routinely used to assess extreme shyness in children. Young monkeys are ideally suited for these studies because of their similarities in brain development and social behavior, Kalin noted. Variation in brain ac
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Contact: Susan Lampert Smith
ssmith5@uwhealth.org
608-890-5643
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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