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article imageStudy: Brain scan reveals insight into anxiety disorder

By Gordon K. Chan     Dec 31, 2009 in Science
Researchers at Stanford University examined 16 people who suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and discovered that "scrambled connections" in the brain may be the cause of the problem.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a psychiatric condition whereby a sufferer's ability to live day-to-day is affected by their worry over common concerns.
Reported in Science Daily, examination of brain activity scans have revealed some interesting findings into the source of clinically diagnosed anxiety. A study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) revealed dysfunction in a region of the brain known as the Amygdala.
The Amygdala is located in the middle of the brain and helps process emotion, fear and memory.
Specifically, two areas of the Amygdala were of interest: the basolateral (bottom) and centromedial (top) region.
These areas are important because of their proximity to other regions of the brain. The basolateral region is linked to the occipital lobe, a brain area responsible for vision, hearing, memory, high level emotions and cognition.
The centromedial region is close to the deeper regions of the brain. Specifically, several links are here: the thalamus (an information flow regulator), the brain stem (a controller of heart rate, breathing and neuro-chemical release) and lastly, the cerebellum (control motor skills).
In the study, people with GAD displayed a "mixed up" communications pattern in their amygdala. Rather than connect to the appropriate function in the respective brain regions, the basolateral region became connected to the centromedial targets and vice versa.
The overall reduced connectivity in both regions of the amygdala results in difficulty in determining the importance of stimuli.
The result? Sufferers of GAD, who experience persistent unpleasant emotional and physical fear, have trouble telling the difference between what is truly worrisome and mild annoyances.
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