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How Your Brain Generates Anxiety

Scientists are getting closer to understanding just what happens in your brain when you feel…

  • June 28, 2018

Scientists are getting closer to understanding just what happens in your brain when you feel anxiety.

Specifically, Neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified a neural circuit in the amygdala, the brain’s seat of emotion processing, that gives rise to anxiety.

Their insight has revealed the critical role of a molecule called dynorphin, which could serve as a target for treatment of anxiety-related disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Very intense fearful experiences, especially those that are life threatening, are often “over-learned” and can lead to an unhealthy level of anxiety or to anxiety disorders, which affect about 18% of the adult US population.

Previous studies indicate that two regions in the amygdala, the central amygdala and the BNST, coordinate short-term and long-term responses to various kinds of threatening stimuli.

“What we haven’t known are the underlying circuit and cellular mechanisms in these regions that control the generation of anxiety,” says CSHL Professor Bo Li, who led the research.

This new knowledge could help researchers create very targeted therapies for relieving anxiety.

Find out more at www.cshl.edu.

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