Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Part of the brain that causes fear identified by scientists

brain.jpg

 Ivy League researchers say they’ve identified where fear resides in the brain, in a finding that carries significance for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

The team of scientists from Dartmouth College found that the striatum – a part of the brain involved in motor function and decision making – enlarges in tandem with an intolerance to uncertainty, or fear of the unknown.

Justin Kim and his colleagues studied  56 mentally healthy students who underwent MRI scans of their brains. The volunteers also completed a survey that assessed their ability to cope with the uncertainty of challenges or negative events in the future.


Read more: meet the kick-ass women depicting anxiety on Instagram


Comparing the surveys and the brain images, the researchers identified a clear link between the size of the striatum and an aversion to ambiguity about future events. 

The findings are a starting point for scientists to potentially track the volume of the striatum, and therefore predict a young person’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in life.

It also opens the way for professionals to treat the symptoms of anxiety conditions, and monitor the efficacy of treatments, by observing the striatum.

anxiety

The results mean researchers may be able to predict whether someone will suffer from anxiety

“Uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threats are central to understanding the generation of anxiety and anxiety disorders,” Kim says, in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

“People who had difficulty tolerating an uncertain future had a relatively enlarged striatum,” he adds. “What surprised us was that it was only the striatum and not other parts of the brain we examined.”

He said their results indicate a way of predicting whether someone is predisposed to anxiety or OCD, based on their intolerance to uncertainty.


Read more: How to recognise and cope with anxiety


“Our findings demonstrate that the relationship between increased striatal volumes and intolerance of uncertainty can be observed in healthy individuals,” Kim says.

“Having a relatively enlarged volume of the striatum may be associated with how intolerant you are when facing an uncertain future, but it does not mean you have OCD or generalized anxiety disorder.”

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, seek help and support with Mind.

Photos: iStock

Related

wild water swimming.jpg

Balm for the soul: the mental health benefits of wild swimming

is-it-ok-to-drink-alcohol-while-pregnant-official-advice-sexist.jpg

Warnings over drinking while pregnant are “sexist”, say experts

piers morgan.jpg

“Why Piers Morgan’s cavalier stance on mental health is so dangerous”

More

The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017