Mental health awareness: Brain can be the cause of anxiety disorders

Mental health awareness: Brain can be the cause of anxiety disorders

Nothing can best describe the human brain because it is exceptionally incredible. The human brain is made up of about 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons which are connected like wires of a giant telephone exchange. However, the same brain can be a cause of mental illness and, in fact, become its antidote too.

Researchers studying mental illness believe that abnormalities in how particular brain circuits function contribute to the development of many mental illnesses. Connections between nerve cells along certain pathways or circuits in the brain can lead to problems with how the brain processes information and may result in abnormal mood, action, thinking, or behavior. Having said that, researchers contributing to various studies have also found the brain to be an evident answer to solve many mental abnormalities, for example anxiety.

Anxiety: the most common mental disorder in the U.S.

The National Institute of Mental Health highlights on its website that 40 million adults in the United States are a victim of anxiety disorders, which accounts to 18 percent of the American population in the age group. According to The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders, a study commissioned by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and based on data gathered by the association and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 1999 found that anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the country.

Anxiety disorders can become so severe that normal life and relationships may get impaired. Some of these disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia (or social anxiety disorder), specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These disorders can have their own unique sets of symptoms.

Antidote:  The ‘brain’

A new research – conducted in the lab of Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF) Scientific Council, by its member and 2005, 2007 NARSAD Young Investigator Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Stanford University, and others – recognized a specific region of the brain which regulates behaviors and physiological changes associated with anxiety. The animal-based study, published in November 2015 in journal Nature, says that cells in this region of brain, known as basomedial amygdala, differentiate between safe and potentially threatening environments, and work together to suppress anxiety when conditions seem safe.

The scientists examined connections between the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, regions known to be involved in regulating fear and anxiety. Connections between these regions have been found to be disrupted in people with anxiety disorders. The researchers found that in a mouse the medial prefrontal cortex was connected to a specific part of the amygdala, its basomedial region, and these connections reduced anxiety-related behaviors in the mice when activated artificially.

Another research by a team of researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) describes a new pathway that controls fear memories and behavior in the mouse brain, offering mechanistic insight into how anxiety disorders may arise. In this study, which was published online on Nature in January 2015, researchers claimed that it provided a mechanistic insight into a novel circuit that controls fear in the brain, and provides a target for the future treatment of anxiety disorders.

Future of discovery to control anxiety

These studies reveal that a better and thorough understanding of how the brain functions can help in discovering effective treatments for anxiety disorders. If the brain cells have a tendency to implement a top-down-bottom-up control mechanism, or can learn freezing of anxiety disorders, then some of the underlying pathology in patients can be identified to treat the mentally instable.

If you or your loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder, seek immediate help from specialists. Sovereign Mental Health Services prides itself on using cutting-edge, evidence-based techniques to treat a wide assortment of mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. For assistance and information, please contact 866-954-0529.

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