The brain system that stops worriers just going with the flow

The brain system that stops worriers just going with the flow
Cheer up Charlie, it may never happen...

(Medical Xpress)—Chronic worriers are more likely to use analytical thought processes when making decisions rather than relying on 'gut instincts', according to a new University of Sussex study published this week.

A team of reviewed the body of research in recent years that has identified two systems used by the for processing information.

'Systematic processing' is characterized by effortful thought, often involving analyzing all the available evidence before coming to a conclusion. 'Heuristic processing' is the swift, intuitive response – the sort of reaction elicited by a sudden and unexpected threat.

In the paper, published in Clinical Psychology Review, Dr Suzanne Dash and her colleagues point to evidence that suggests extensive worrying activates the same area of the brain as systematic processing (the left frontal lobe), whereas heuristic processing is associated with the right frontal lobe.

Dr Dash explains: "We tend to use systematic processing when we feel highly motivated and also when our actual in the decision that we are making is not as good as we would like it to be. In other words, it is a bit like an alarm bell going off in our mind – if something is important to us, and we do not feel that we have done as good a job as we can, we are likely to use systematic processing."

Although most of us worry from time to time, for some individuals, worry becomes a consuming and chronic chain of that they find very hard to stop. Dr Dash says: "Sometimes it is appropriate to give lots of careful thought to what might happen in an uncertain situation, such as buying a house. However, worriers give effortful, deliberative thought to issues that other people would deem to be less threatening, such as what will happen if they forget something or are not completely prepared for a meeting."

Worriers are more likely to endorse , find uncertainty more unpleasant, require more evidence before making a decision, have a stronger desire for control, and feel more responsible and accountable. These characteristics, along with being in a negative mood, have all been shown to increase systematic processing.

Dr Dash says that through examining factors that increase systematic processing it is possible to identify areas that can be addressed in therapy for chronic worriers. "There are many reasons why worriers might feel that they are not confident enough and so use systematic processing. However, being aware of two systems of information processing allows people to think about when it is appropriate to use detailed effortful processing and when it is not appropriate.

"And within cognitive-behavioural therapy, it is possible to support individuals to manage unhelpful thoughts, such as feeling excessively responsible for a situation or needing to be in control."

The paper is titled 'Systematic Information Processing Style and Perseverative Worry.'

More information: www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S0272735813001232

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Making the brain take notice of faces in autism

Aug 15, 2013

Difficulty in registering and responding to the facial expressions of other people is a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Relatedly, functional imaging studies have shown that individuals with ASD display altered ...

This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles

Aug 07, 2013

Listening to music activates large networks in the brain, but different kinds of music are processed differently. A team of researchers from Finland, Denmark and the UK has developed a new method for studying ...

Brain activation when processing Chinese hand-radicals

Aug 07, 2013

A number of studies in which patients with lesions to frontal pre-motor areas are included have identified deficits in action comprehension. In addition, imaging studies have revealed the activation of brain ...

Study shows language can cause the invisible to be seen

Aug 13, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers Gary Lupyan and Emily Ward from the University of Wisconsin and Yale respectively, have run experiments that show that in some instances, language can cause objects that are ...

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User 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.