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Do Genetics Factor into Anxiety?

This is Science Today. Previous studies of brain circuitry and its role in anxiety have focused on an overactive amygdala, which controls the fight-or-flight reflex. But a groundbreaking University of California, Berkeley study suggests that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is very much involved, too. Psychologist Sonia Bishop, who led the study, says they found that anxious people have poor concentration skills due to a slow response in the prefrontal cortex. So, they have trouble distracting themselves from anxious thoughts.

Bishop:           If both the amygdala being overactive and the prefrontal cortex being potentially underactive could play a role in anxiety, it may be that some people have a genetic make-up, which leads to an overactive amygdala and others have a genetic makeup, which really leads to more of a difficulty in using these prefrontal mechanisms. 2034 So, one aspect of my research is really trying to characterize at that level and to see if we can break down people into groups where maybe some people have more problems with the prefrontal aspect and other people have more problems with the amygdala aspects.

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