Inherited brain activity predicts childhood anxiety risk

A new study focused on anxiety and brain activity pinpoints the brain regions that are relevant to developing childhood anxiety.

Children with anxious temperaments suffer from extreme shyness, persistent worry and increased bodily responses to stress.

It has long been known that these children are at increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and associated substance abuse disorders.

The increased brain activity in the amygdala and anterior hippocampus could predict anxious temperament in young primates.

Ned H. Kalin, chair of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, led the research.

Previous research led by Kalin established that anxious young monkeys are similar to children who are temperamentally anxious. In the current study, researchers examined the extent to which genetic and environmental factors influence activity in the anxiety-related brain regions that may make children vulnerable.

The study suggests that there is a tremendous opportunity to modify the environment to prevent children from developing full-blown anxiety.

Under Kalin’s leadership, researchers at the HealthEmotions Research Institute are translating these findings to humans by measuring amygdala and hippocampal function in young children who have early signs of anxiety and depression.

This study may lead to new strategies for early detection and treatment of at-risk children.

The findings, published in the Aug. 12 edition of the journal Nature.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

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