Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Brain Circuits and Anxiety

At least weekly some new piece of brain function information surfaces. Take recent studies by researchers at MIT’s Piower Institute for Learning and Memory, for example. It has been known for some time that memory is impacted both by the hippocampi and the amygdalae, part of the brain’s limbic system. It wasn’t known, however, how (or even if) these little brain organs communicated with each other in relation to anxiety. In studies of mice, the BLA or basolateral amygdala and the vHPC or ventral hippocampus were both implicated in mediating anxiety-related behaviors. “Researchers showed that activation of BLA-vHPC synapses acutely and robustly increased anxiety-related behaviors, while inhibition of BLA-vHPC synapses decreased anxiety-related behaviors.” My guess is that the next step will be to figure out how to practically apply this knowledge to help treat anxiety-related disorders. Estimates are that in any given year at least 40 million Americans are impacted by some type of anxiety disorder.  

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