Scientists Just Identified The Physical Source of Anxiety in The Brain

Anxiety is a term for a few disorders which lead to worrying, nervousness, apprehension, and fear. As a matter of fact, these disorders impact how we behave and feel and they can lead to physical symptoms.

Severe anxiety might impact day-to-day living, and the mild anxiety is unsettling and vague. Anxiety disorders impact around 40 million individuals in the U.S. Anxiety is actually a common group of mental conditions in the United States.

But, only around 36.9 % of the people who have anxiety receive treatment.

Study on This Topic

According to the discovery of one study, there are “anxiety cells” in the hippocampus. This study was investigating the neurological basis of anxiety found in the brain.

These cells regulate anxious behavior, and they also can be controlled with the help of beam of light.

So far, the findings demonstrated in experiments with mice might offer hope for millions of individuals around the world who have anxiety disorders by making new medications which silence these anxiety-controlled neurons.

One of the researchers, Mazen Kheirbek says that they wanted to find out the place where the emotional info which goes into anxiety is actually encoded in the brain.

The Technique – Calcium Imaging

In order to find out the team used calcium imaging. This is a technique which involves inserting miniature microscopes in the brains of the laboratory mice. These microscopes record the activity of the cells in the hippocampus.

The mice weren’t in ordinary cages. They were in specially built mazes. Some of the paths led to elevated platforms and open spaces, environments which cause anxiety to mice, because of the high vulnerability to predators.

Away from their safety, something happened in their heads. The researchers observed cells in the hippocampus by the name Vca1 firing up. The more nervous the mice behaved, the larger one activity of the neurons became.

Rene Hen, the senior researcher, says that they call them anxiety cells because they fire when the mice are in places which are frightening to them.

The output of these anxiety cells was traced to the region of the brain. This region regulates the hormones which in turn control the emotions.

More About the Study

This same process operates in people, that is why the researchers believe that these neurons might be present in human biology as well.

Jessica Jimenez, one of the researchers, says that after the discovery of these cells, there are new areas from exploring ideas for treatment that the researchers didn’t know before.

But, that is not all, in fact, the researchers found how to control these anxiety cells in mice. They control the cells to the extent that it changes the observable behavior of the mice.

How the Researchers Control the Anxiety Cells

In order to control the anxiety cells in mice, the researchers use a technique by the name optogenetics. With this technique, they use a beam of light on these cells.

The researchers could silence these cells and boost anxiety-free, confident activity in the animals.

The researchers came to the discovery that the mice became less anxious, and wanted to explore the maze even more. This so-called control switch actually didn’t work one way.

By changing the light, the researchers could boost the activity of the anxiety cells. According to Kheirbek, these anxiety cells are probably one part of the circuit by which the mice learn about the information related to anxiety.

Next Steps

However, there is a need for more research on this topic. The next steps would be to discover whether is it possible to use the same control switch in order to regulate anxiety in humans.

If that works, it will undoubtedly open new ways of treating different conditions which are related to anxiety. Every new research means new hope. We’ll just have to wait and hope for the best.

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