Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
Anxiety disorders are common in children and adolescents, affecting up to 25 percent of the youth population. Anxiety causes distress and functional impairment and, if left untreated, can result in bad grades, problems at home and increased rates of psychiatric disorders in adulthood.
These risks constitute a significant public health burden, and they underscore the importance of continued efforts to understand the cause and course of the disorder.
While earlier research found that anxious youths are apt to interpret neutral or ambiguous information as threatening, fueling the feelings of distress that characterize anxiety disorders, what happens in the brain and how the brain may be impacted has been unclear. In particular, where in the brain neutral information is transformed into "threatening" information in anxious youth has remained unknown.
Now researchers at UCLA have shown that teenagers with anxiety disorders show increased activity in a specific part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, when they are interpreting a situation negatively. The results appear in the current online edition of the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
For the study, 16 teenagers with anxiety disorders and 15 non-anxious teens underwent functional MRI while being shown pictures of people with a neutral look on their face. The faces were paired with either of two sentences: one that was viewed as neutral ("She is watching a presentation") and one that might be viewed as more intimidating ("She is about to give a presentation").
Teenagers without anxiety disorders were unaffected by the context when they interpreted the faces. But those with anxiety disorders often found neutral faces more threatening when they were presented in an "anxiety-provoking" situation - one in which they might feel judged by peers. This was not a great surprise. But when researchers measured brain activity in these situations, they found increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.
"We know that the medial prefrontal cortex plays a role in social and emotional processes, and it is an area of the brain that is still developing through childhood and adolescence, so it was a natural candidate for examination," said co-author Tara Peris, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "The role this area of the brain plays is of particular interest, then, given prior research that implicates it in inferring what another person is feeling."
This is among the first studies, Peris said, aimed at understanding how anxious youths make sense of neutral stimuli and the conditions under which their brains might elicit heightened patterns of activation. Further research is needed to examine more definitively the role of this part of the brain in adolescent anxiety and the extent to which it may serve as a biomarker for illness.
Adriana Galván, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, was co-author of the study.
Funding for the study was provided by a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award and by the National Institutes of Mental Health (K23 MH085058), the National Science Foundation (BCS 0963750) and UCLA institutional funds.
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our Anxiety / Stress category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
University of California - Los Angeles. "Specific area of the brain linked to anxiety disorders in youth." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 21 Nov. 2013. Web.
9 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/269059>
University of California - Los Angeles. (2013, November 21). "Specific area of the brain linked to anxiety disorders in youth." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/269059.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2014 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.