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Fear and Anxiety Share Same Bases in Brain

Fear and anxiety share overlapping neural circuits. The findings contradict the popular belief that anxiety and fear are distinct emotions with different triggers and segregated brain circuits

Source | neurosciencenews.com

Source: University of Maryland

Anxiety, the most common family of mental illnesses in the U.S., has been pushed to epic new heights by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults and a staggering 41% of people ages 18-29 experienced clinically significant anxiety symptoms in late August. Now, the findings of a recent UMD-led study indicate that some long-accepted thinking about the basic neuroscience of anxiety is wrong.

The report by an international team of researchers led by Alexander Shackman, an associate professor of psychology at UMD, and Juyoen Hur, an assistant professor of psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, provides new evidence that fear and anxiety reflect overlapping brain circuits. The findings run counter to popular scientific accounts, highlighting the need for a major theoretical reckoning. The study was published last week in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“The conceptual distinction between ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ dates back to the time of Freud, if not the Greek philosophers of antiquity,” said Shackman, a core faculty member of UMD’s Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program, and 2018 recipient of a seed grant award from UMD’s Brain and Behavior Initiative, “In recent years, brain imagers and clinicians have extended this distinction, arguing that fear and anxiety are orchestrated by distinct neural networks.

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