Increased Brain Activity Related to Thinking May Prevent Anxiety
등록일 2019년 01월 07일 목요일
수정일 2017년 11월 23일 목요일

Photo by: Simon Fraser University - University Communications via Flickr

A new study suggests that boosting the activity of brain areas related to thinking and problem-solving can reduce anxiety.Researchers at Duke University found that people engaged in tasks related to memory, solving, and thinking have reduced risk to develop the condition.

"These findings help reinforce a strategy whereby individuals may be able to improve their emotional functioning - their mood, their anxiety, their experience of depression - not only by directly addressing those phenomena but also by indirectly improving their general cognitive functioning," said Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

In the study, the researchers collected data from 120 students who participated in the Duke Neurogenetics Study.Participants were asked questions related to mental health and underwent a non-invasive brain scan – functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.The participants were engaged in specific tasks that trigger brain regions during the fMRI scan.The brain regions targeted by the researchers were the amygdala, ventral striatum, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

1.The amygdala is the brain region responsible for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation.

2.The ventral striatum is the input module to the basal ganglia, a neuronal circuit needed for voluntary movement.The striatum is required to manage motor skills and the reward system.The brain's reward system includes movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure.

3.The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved with planning, decision-making, regulating social behavior, expression of personality, and the person's will to live.

Each participant was asked to answer simple math problems related to memory to stimulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.To stimulate the emotional response of the amygdala, the researchers showed angry and scary faces to the participants.For the ventral striatum, researchers used a reward-based guessing game.

The findings revealed that participants with the combination of low reward-related activity in the ventral striatum and high threat-related activity in the amygdala have lower chances  of developing anxiety if they also had high activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.The results were obtained from the comparison of mental health assessment during the brain scans and follow-up after seven months, according to Matthew Scult, a clinical psychology graduate student at Duke.

The researchers suggested that strategies that stimulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may be beneficial to people at risk of anxiety.The benefit is that the brain region has the skill to adapt to many situations, including new ones.Activities that stimulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex include cognitive behavioral therapy, working memory training, and transcranial magnetic stimulation.However, the researchers were not able to determine if the brain training can improve the functionality of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or if it only improves the specific task being trained for.

"We are hoping to help improve current mental health treatments by first predicting who is most at-risk so that we can intervene earlier, and second, by using these types of approaches to determine who might benefit from a given therapy," said Scult.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a common experience in our daily lives.Normal levels of anxiety, such as in traffic and stage performance, usually make us alert and attentive.But anxiety caused by fear and pain can lead to negative effects.Anxiety from negative sources can prevent someone to perform daily tasks or suffer from difficulty in socializing.In the US, an estimated 18 percent of adults suffer from anxiety disorder, while 8 percent of children and teenagers suffer from its negative impact.Some negative impacts of anxiety disorder come from home and at school.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder can affect the person's physical and emotional states:

- Feelings of dread.

- Feeling tense or anticipating danger.

- Irritability or restlessness.

- Shortness of breath.

- Racing heart.

- Sweating.

- Insomnia

- Upset stomach.

- Frequent urination or diarrhea.

There are several anxiety disorders and each may have a variety of symptoms.The most common anxiety disorders include panic disorder, reflected through panic attacks, phobias or extreme fears; generalized anxiety disorder or exaggeration of everyday worries; and social anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear from social humiliation.

Anxiety can also be a symptom or an association with another mental health condition, such as depression, substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and eating disorders.Anxiety disorders can be treated using psychotherapy, medications, or complementary health approaches.

1.Psychotherapy or talk therapy engages the patient and the therapist in a one-on-one conversation.The therapy session usually focuses on the patient's troubles such as current problems, experiences, and thoughts.The therapist will help the patient build connections and provide insight into those experiences.

2.Medications are available to help regulate the chemicals in the brain responsible for emotions and thinking patterns.These drugs are usually combined with psychotherapy for better results.

3.Complementary health approaches involve the non-traditional methods to treat people with mental health conditions.These approaches include the use of natural products like vitamin supplements to reduce symptoms, and mind and body treatments to improve the person's well-being.

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