Even the brains of people with anxiety states can get used to fear
Fear is a protective function against possible dangers that is designed to save our lives. Where there are problems with this fear mechanism, its positive effects are cancelled out: patients who have a social phobia become afraid of perfectly normal, everyday social situations because they are worried about behaving inappropriately or being thought of as stupid by other people. Scientists from the Centre for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology and the University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the MedUni Vienna have now discovered that this fear circuit can be deactivated, at least in part.
In a study by Ronald Sladky, led by Christian Windischberger (Centre for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology), which has recently been published in the magazine PLOS One, functional magnetic resonance tomography was used to measure the changes in the brain activity of socially phobic patients and healthy test subjects while they were looking at faces. This experiment simulates social confrontation with other people without actually placing the individual in an intolerable situation of anxiety.
Permanent confrontation has a diminishing effect on anxiety
"The study demonstrated that people with social phobia initially exhibit greater activity in the amygdala and in the medial, prefrontal cortex of the brain, however after a few faces this activity recedes," says Sladky. This contradicts the assumption made thus far that the emotional circuit of socially phobic individuals is unable to adapt adequately to this stress-inducing situation.
Permanent confrontation with the test task not only led to a solution to the "problem" being found more quickly among the patients with anxiety, but also to some areas of the brain being bypassed which otherwise were over-stimulated, a characteristic typical of anxiety. Says Sladky: "We therefore concluded that there are functional control strategies even in the emotional circuits of people with social phobia, although the mechanisms take longer to take effect in these individuals. The misregulation of these parts of the brain can therefore be compensated to a degree."
These findings could, according to Sladky, provide a starting point for the development of personalised training programmes that will help affected individuals to conquer unpleasant situations in their everyday lives more effectively. In Austria, around 200,000 people a year are affected by some form of social phobia. The number of people who suffer this condition without seeking help for it is likely to be very high, since many affected individuals fail to seek assistance or do so only too late as a result of their anxiety.
More information: Sladky, R. et al. Increased Neural Habituation in the Amygdala and Orbitofrontal Cortex in Social Anxiety Disorder Revealed by fMRI. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50050. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050050
Journal reference: PLoS ONE
Provided by Medical University of Vienna
- Individuals with social phobia see themselves differently Oct 06, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Research finds children with social phobia are judged less attractive Feb 07, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Spare the rod, spoil the child? Sep 21, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers develop better treatment for social fears Apr 30, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Self-help treatment for social anxiety will ease burden on mental health services and for sufferers Oct 11, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
17 hours ago Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—The monstrous tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., on Monday, killing dozens of adults and children, is a stunning example of violent weather that can affect a child's mental well-being.
Psychology & Psychiatry 8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Youth who had a schoolmate die by suicide are significantly more likely to consider or attempt suicide, according to a study in published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). This effect can last 2 years or mo ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 12 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when present during pregnancy, reliably predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression.
Psychology & Psychiatry 20 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A Mediterranean diet with added extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts seems to improve the brain power of older people better than advising them to follow a low-fat diet, indicates research published online in the Journal of ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 20, 2013 | 3.5 / 5 (2) | 2
More people are being diagnosed with eating disorders every year and the most common type is not either of the two most well known—bulimia or anorexia—but eating disorders not otherwise specified (eating disorders that ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 20, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
13 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
11 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |
An experimental sleeping pill from US drug company Merck is effective at helping people fall and stay asleep, according to reviewers at the US Food and Drug Administration, which could soon approve the new drug.
6 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
7 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
13 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (6) | 0 |
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |