Anxiety is common، but how it affects the brain is، as yet، poorly understood. New research has revealed "anxiety cells،" which provides a fresh direction for research into new treatments. In the wild، an animal that never feels anxiety would quickly become a dead animal. Medics Today said.
This is due to the fact that anxiety produces a raised sense of awareness and physiological readiness to fight or fly، which is essential for survival.
For many people، however، anxiety is triggered in situations where it is unnecessary or even unhelpful، such as a crowded mall or when talking to a group of friends.
For these people، anxiety becomes a problem. Rather than a sensible reaction to a life-threatening situation، anxiety becomes triggered inappropriately.
Anxiety disorders are "the most common mental illness" in the United States، affecting an estimated 40 million adults.
Because of this high prevalence، researchers are forging ahead in an effort to uncover what goes on in the brain. It is important to understand which brain circuits are controlling the anxiety response، and what goes wrong with those circuits in people with anxiety disorders.
The most recent study was carried out by Mazen Kheirbek، Ph.D.، who works at the University of California، San Francisco، and a team from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) in New York.
Kheirbek explains their aims، saying، "We wanted to understand where the emotional information that goes into the feeling of anxiety is encoded within the brain." Their findings are published this week in the journal Neuron.
The team was particularly interested in the hippocampus. This region of the brain plays a role in autobiographical memory and navigation but also appears to play a role in mood and anxiety. In particular، earlier studies have demonstrated that altering activity in the ventral region of the hippocampus reduces anxiety.
To investigate this region in more detail، the scientists measured the output of hundreds of cells in mice's hippocampi while they went about their daily business. It was found that when the animals encountered a situation that made them feel anxious، the neurons in the ventral region of the hippocampus became active.