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Fear and anxiety share the same bases in the brain

Past research have recommended that each concern and anxiety are different- with diverse triggers and strictly segregated brain circuits. Fear–a snappy response to precise threat–is regarded as managed via the amygdala, a small almond-shaped area buried underneath the cerebral cortex’s wrinkled convolutions. By distinction, anxiety–a chronic state of heightened apprehension and arousal elicited when risk is unsure–is regarded as orchestrated via the neighboring mattress nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). 

But a brand new find out about means that either one of those brain areas are similarly delicate to sure and unsure sorts of threats.

According to a brand new find out about, concern and anxiety mirror overlapping brain circuits. The find out about contradicts common clinical accounts that includes the requirement for a vital theoretical reckoning.

The find out about was once performed via a world workforce of researchers led via Alexander Shackman, an affiliate professor of psychology at UMD, and Juyoen Hur, an assistant professor of psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Shackman, a core college member of UMD’s Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program, mentioned, “The conceptual distinction between ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ dates back to the time of Freud, if not the Greek philosophers of antiquity. In recent years, brain imagers and clinicians have extended this distinction, arguing that distinct neural networks orchestrate fear and anxiety.”

“This new study adds to a rapidly growing body of new evidence suggesting that this old model is wrong. If anything, fear and anxiety seem to be constructed in the brain using a massively overlapping set of neural building blocks.”

Scientists used fMRI to quantify neural task whilst individuals expected receiving a painful surprise paired with an uncongenial symbol and sound. Scientists dubbed this process as Maryland Threat Countdown.

The timing of this “threat” was once signaled both via a standard countdown timer–i.e., “3, 2, 1…”–or via a random string of numbers–e.g. “16, 21, 8.” In each stipulations, risk anticipation recruited a remarkably identical brain areas community, together with the amygdala and the BNST. Across a variety of head-to-head comparisons, the two confirmed statistically indistinguishable responses.

Scientists analyzed the neural circuits engaged whilst looking forward to sure and unsure threats and display that each sorts of risk anticipation recruited a not unusual community of core brain areas, together with the amygdala and BNST.

Shackman mentioned, “These observations raise important questions about the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework that currently guides the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health’s quest to discover the brain circuitry underlying anxiety disorders, depression, and other common mental illnesses.”

“As it is currently written, RDoC embodies the idea that certain and uncertain threats are processed by circuits centered on the amygdala and BNST, respectively. It’s very black-and-white thinking, emphasizing that RDoC’s “strict-segregation” type is in keeping with information accumulated at the flip of the century.”

“It’s time to update the RDoC so that it reflects the actual state of the science. It’s not just our study; in fact, a whole slew of mechanistic studies in rodents and monkeys and new meta-analyses of the published human imaging literature are all coalescing around the same fundamental scientific lesson: certain and uncertain threat are processed by a shared network of brain regions, a common core.”

“Anxiety disorders impose a substantial and growing burden on global public health and the economy. While we have made tremendous scientific progress, existing treatments are far from curative for many patients. We hope that research like this study can help set the stage for better models of emotion and, ultimately, hasten the development of more effective intervention strategies for the many millions of children and adults around the world who struggle with debilitating anxiety and depression.”

Journal Reference:

Juyoen Hur et al. Anxiety and the Neurobiology of Temporally Uncertain Threat Anticipation. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0704-20.2020

About the author

Kanishk Singh

Kanishk Singh

Kanishk is a passionate blogger and has been working with many websites as the content writer and editor. Besides, he has also written guest editorials in local magazines. Contact him at kanishk@indiacolumnist.com

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