Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence

April 12, 2012

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study by scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, and colleagues found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in theGlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, Sackler Institute of Columbia University, NIH/National Institute of Mental Health, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, Psychiatric Institute subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

"While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," said Dr. Coplan. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher . Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."

In this study of anxiety and intelligence, patients with (GAD) were compared with healthy volunteers to assess the relationship among (IQ), worry, and subcortical white matter metabolism of choline. In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD, high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. However, in the former, the correlation was positive and in the latter, the correlation was negative. Eighteen healthy volunteers (eight males and 10 females) and 26 patients with GAD (12 males and 14 females) served as subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life.

The results of their study, "The Relationship between and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism," was published in a recent edition of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, and can be read online.

The study was selected and evaluated by a member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), placing it in their library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.

Explore further: Worrying can impact interpersonal relationships, study finds

Related Stories

Worrying can impact interpersonal relationships, study finds

July 26, 2011

Most people worry from time to time. A new research study, led by a Case Western Reserve University faculty member in psychology, also shows that worrying can be so intrusive and obsessive that it interferes in the person's ...

Time estimation ability predicts mathematical intelligence

December 7, 2011

Being good at estimating time can be a useful skill on its own, but it may also indicate higher mathematical intelligence as well, according to a new study published in the Dec. 7 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.

Study finds exercise reduces anxiety symptoms in women

January 19, 2012

Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population suffers from excessive, uncontrollable worry that reduces their health and quality of life. The condition, known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is difficult to overcome and ...

Recommended for you

Oxytocin enhances spirituality, new study says

September 21, 2016

Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...

Men with anxiety are more likely to die of cancer, study says

September 20, 2016

Men over 40 who are plagued with the omnipresent of generalized anxiety disorder are more than twice as likely to die of cancer than are men who do not have the mental affliction, new research finds. But for women who suffer ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.