Researchers have discovered that an area of the brain that was previously assumed to dampen response to stress, in fact does the opposite and directly promotes anxiety. In reporting their findings in the journal Cell, the investigators add a new dimension to the science of anxiety
They describe how they found a brain circuit that connects an area called the lateral septum (LS) with other brain structures in a way that directly affects anxiety.
Corresponding author David Anderson, the Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, says:
“Our study has identified a new neural circuit that plays a causal role in promoting anxiety states. Part of the reason we lack more effective and specific drugs for anxiety is that we don’t know enough about how the brain processes anxiety. This study opens up a new line of investigation into the brain circuitry that controls anxiety.”
Figures from the National Institutes of Mental Health show over 18% of adults in the US are affected by anxiety disorders, where people experience excessive worry or tension, often leading to physical symptoms.
Although previous research has focused primarily on the amygdala as being the region in the brain that processes anxiety, Prof. Anderson and colleagues had a hunch that the LS might also be involved, so they decided to study it using mice.
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