Anxious children found to have bigger "fear centers" in brain

  • June 17, 2014
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Anxious children found to have bigger


Chil­dren with high anx­i­e­ty tend to have a larg­er “fear cen­ter” in the brain, with more con­nec­tions to oth­er parts of the brain, ac­cord­ing to a stu­dy.

The re­port, in the cur­rent is­sue of the jour­nal Bi­o­log­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try, says anx­i­e­ty prob­lems may stem in part from changes in its de­vel­op­ment of that cen­ter, called the amyg­da­la.

Re­search­ers at the Stan­ford Uni­vers­ity School of Med­i­cine re­cruited 76 chil­dren, sev­en to nine years of age. The par­ents com­plet­ed as­sess­ments de­signed to meas­ure the anx­i­e­ty lev­els of the chil­dren, and the chil­dren then un­der­went scans of brain struc­ture and func­tion, through mag­net­ic res­o­nance or MRI im­ag­ing.

The re­search­ers found that the more anx­ious chil­dren had, be­sides a larg­er “fear cen­ter,” in­creased con­nec­ti­vity be­tween the amyg­da­la and oth­er brain re­gions re­spon­si­ble for at­ten­tion, emo­tion per­cep­tion, and regula­t­ion. They al­so de­vel­oped an equa­t­ion that they said re­liably pre­dicted the anx­i­e­ty lev­el from the MRI meas­urements.

The most af­fect­ed re­gion was the ba­so­lat­eral por­tion of the amyg­da­la, they said, im­pli­cat­ed in fear learn­ing and the pro­cess­ing of emo­tion-related in­forma­t­ion.

“It is a bit sur­pris­ing that al­tera­t­ions to the struc­ture and con­nec­ti­vity of the amyg­da­la were so sig­nif­i­cant in chil­dren with high­er lev­els of anx­i­e­ty, giv­en both the young age of the chil­dren and the fact that their anx­i­e­ty lev­els were too low to be ob­served clin­ic­ally,” said Shaozheng Qin, one of the au­thors.

John Krys­tal, ed­i­tor of the jour­nal, added that fu­ture stud­ies need to fo­cus on wheth­er the brain struc­ture is a risk fac­tor, or it­self a con­se­quence, of “in­creased child­hood anx­i­e­ty.” This line of re­search “will pro­vide im­por­tant new in­sights in­to the neurode­vel­op­mental ori­gins of anx­i­e­ty in hu­mans,” Qin said.

Amygdala[1]

Source : http://www.world-science.net/othernews/140616_anxiety.htm

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