Scientist locates “anxiety centre” in the brain

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We all experience fear in our lives, some more than others, but what part of the brain is involved and why do some people go rigid with fear whereas others make a stand and fight when both are faced with exactly the same situation?

A scientist from Maudsley hospital in South London reckons he has found out where the “anxiety centre” is located and some of the preliminary findings of his ingenious experiment are proving quite interesting. For example, who would have thought that political leanings would play a part in anxiety levels?

Psychologist Dr Adam Perkins designed an experiment in which he subjected varying amounts of stress to a group of volunteers over a period of nine months. He himself was also included in his own experiment. He also used questionnaires to assess anxiety levels as well as MRI scans to observe what was happening in the brain whilst the volunteer was under stress.

In part of the experiment the subjects were asked to play a video game dubbed the “rat race”, which was a simplified version of Pong, no horrendous graphics or anything like that, just a very simple game with dots on a screen. Everyone suffered some level of anxiety but interestingly, there were massive variations in the level of anxiety experienced.

Using MRI scans, Dr Perkins was able to locate the region of the brain involved in fear. This “anxiety centre” as he calls it, is located in the part of the brain that we use for spatial awareness and memory, the hippocampus.

So what else has he discovered?

Well according to a write up in the Daily Mail, those who have right wing beliefs are much more likely to be anxious compared to those with more lefty ideals. The least anxious people were actually elderly liberal men.

The Daily Mail also reports that women are more anxious than men and older women were more anxious than younger women.

Some people who are very anxious can “freeze” when faced with a difficult situation, whereas some people remain calm. Dr Perkins may be able to discover why this is the case by looking at what is happening in the brain at the same time.

The study is ongoing so even more interesting insights might be revealed.

One of the benefits to come out of Dr Perkins experiment could be the creation of future drugs that are designed to more accurately target anxiety and depression.

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1 Comment

  1. aisne jayne
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    All very true, but all the scientists seem to want is more pharmaceuticals to throw at the issue. I know all too well how debilitating anxiety can be (GAD sufferer) and out of all the prescribed cocktails that have been dispensed to me I can say that none worked for long. Mother nature knows well enough where the anxiety center is in our brain and thats why i have used aromatherapy steadily and successfully for years now to treat mine. Try this page to start you off also try a search for relaxation techniques as i find the two work brilliantly together.

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