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FMRI scan of the brain offers insight into anxiety

This is Science Today. When you're feeling anxious, do you tend to engage in mindless distractions - like watching television or doing something repetitive, like washing the dishes? Psychologist Sonia Bishop of the University of California, Berkeley has found evidence that those suffering from anxiety may do better by engaging the brain in something more demanding.

 Bishop:          When the task isn't that demanding, then it's easier to not use up all your attention on it and to help you spare resources, which may then get captured by things which are salient - which if you're anxious, may well be something threatening.

Narrator:        Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Bishop was able to determine that study participants suffering from anxiety had a harder time engaging the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is involved with logical reasoning and concentration. Bishop says this understanding could help guide cognitive behavioral therapy.

Bishop:           I think that's a challenge for us is to kind of bring the science and the practice together and to really try and flesh out our understanding of why these approaches  may work and whether perhaps there's some individuals with whom they may work better than others

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.