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Science News About Anxiety Disorders

Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects Into Adulthood

Science Update

Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects Into Adulthood

Once considered a childhood rite of passage, bullying lingers well into adulthood. Bullies and victims alike are at risk for psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide when they become adults, reported a study partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that was published in the April issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

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NIMH’s Dr. Aleksandra Vicentic: Sleep Brain Wave Key to Conquering Fear Memories

Science Update

Dr. Aleksandra Vicentic

An NIMH-funded research study in rats identifies a specific group of cells in the brainstem whose activation during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep helped in eradicating unwanted memories, paving the way for future therapeutics for these disorders.

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Brain Imaging Predicts Psychotherapy Success in Patients with Social Anxiety Disorder

Science Update

fMRI brain scan

Brain imaging might soon predict which treatment options would work best for patients with social phobia.

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Switching Off a Specific Brain Region Can Alter Ingrained Habits in Rats

Science Update

rat in a maze

Old habits may die hard, but we might be able to turn them off by targeting a specific brain region. Such a discovery could help us find better ways of controlling addiction or certain mental disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder.

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Brain Hubs Boil When Hoarders Face Pitching Their Own Stuff

Press Release

anterior cingulate cortex in hoarders

In patients with hoarding disorder, parts of a decision-making brain circuit under-activated when dealing with others’ possessions, but over-activated when deciding whether to keep or discard their own things.

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Pattern Recognition Technology May Help Predict Future Mental Illness in Teens

Science Update

MRI machine

Computer programs that automatically spot patterns in data may help predict a person’s risk for future mental disorders.

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Computer-Based Treatment Eases Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Science Update

girl_uses_laptop.jpg

Results from a small clinical trial suggest that it might be possible, using computer-based training, to help children with anxiety shift their attention away from threat.

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National Survey Dispels Notion that Social Phobia is the Same as Shyness

Science Update

teen waiting to get on the bus

Normal human shyness is not being confused with the psychiatric anxiety disorder known as social phobia, according to an NIMH survey comparing the prevalence rates of the two among U.S. youth.

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Adding Psychotherapy to Medication Treatment Improves Outcomes in Pediatric OCD

Science Update

Woman and girl talking about doc thumbnail

Youth with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) who are already taking antidepressant medication benefit by adding a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), according to an NIMH-funded study published September 21, 2011, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Teen Brain Less Discerning of Threat vs. Safety, More Vulnerable to Stress

Science Update

sample images from the threat learning task

Teen brains rely on early-maturing brain structures that process fear differently than adult brains, according to an NIMH-funded study. As a result, teens may have more difficulty than adults in differentiating between danger and safety, leading to more pervasive stress and anxiety. The study was published online ahead of print on February 23, 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Light Switches Brain Pathway On-and-Off to Dissect How Anxiety Works

Science Update

neurons

Scientists, for the first time, have switched anxiety on-and-off in active animals by shining light at a brain pathway. Instinctively reclusive mice suddenly began exploring normally forbidding open spaces when a blue laser activated the pathway – and retreated into a protected area when it dimmed. By contrast, anxiety-like behaviors increased when an amber laser inhibited the same pathway.

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Nurturing Newborn Neurons Sharpens Minds in Mice

Press Release

Newborn neurons in mouse hippocampus

Adult mice engineered to have more newborn neurons in their brain memory hub excelled at accurately discriminating between similar experiences – an ability that declines with normal aging and in some anxiety disorders. Boosting such neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus also produced antidepressant-like effects when combined with exercise, in the study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Enzyme Enhances, Erases Long-term Memories in Rats

Press Release

Neuron over-expressing PKMzeta

Even long after it is formed, a memory in rats can be enhanced or erased by increasing or decreasing the activity of a brain enzyme, say researchers supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.

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Brain Activity Patterns in Anxiety-Prone People Suggest Deficits in Handling Fear

Science Update

stressed man in crowd, lost

Anxiety as a personality trait appears to be linked to the functioning of two key brain regions involved in fear and its suppression, according to an NIMH-funded study. Differences in how these two regions function and interact may help explain the wide range of symptoms seen in people who have anxiety disorders. The study was published February 10, 2011 in the journal, Neuron.

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Stress Hormone Receptors Less Adaptive in Female Brain

Science Update

molecular dance

A study in rats has revealed striking gender difference in the brain’s stress response that could shed light on women’s proneness to mood and anxiety disorders. Female rat brain cells were more sensitive to a key stress hormone than males’, which could adapt to the hormone in a way female cells couldn’t.

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Drug Substitutes for Training in Rats, Inducing a Memory of Safety

Press Release

mouse

Researchers have found a way to pharmacologically induce a memory of safety in the brain of rats, mimicking the effect of training. The finding suggests possibilities for new treatments for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders.

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Coordinated Treatment Approach Improves Anxiety Symptoms

Science Update

woman and man conversing

A coordinated, multi-component treatment approach was more effective in treating anxiety disorders than usual care found in primary care settings, according to an NIMH-funded study published May 19, 2010, in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association devoted to mental health.

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Gene’s Impact on Forgetting a Fear-Based Memory Same in Humans and Mice

Science Update

laboratory mice

Both humans and mice carrying a variant of a gene that plays a role in memory were slow to learn to forget a fear-based memory. The parallels in gene effects observed in mice and humans in this work means that investigation using the mouse model can provide insights into effects in humans; results may inform treatment approaches to anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Non-Invasive Technique Blocks a Conditioned Fear in Humans

Press Release

fMRI scan showing amygdala

Scientists have for the first time selectively blocked a conditioned fear memory in humans with a behavioral manipulation. Participants remained free of the fear memory for at least a year. The research builds on emerging evidence from animal studies that reactivating an emotional memory opens a 6-hour window of opportunity in which a training procedure can alter it.

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Brain Emotion Circuit Sparks as Teen Girls Size Up Peers

Press Release

Hypothalamus, a node of the emotion circuit

What is going on in teenagers’ brains as their drive for peer approval begins to eclipse their family affiliations? Brain scans of teens sizing each other up reveal an emotion circuit activating more in girls as they grow older, but not in boys. The study by Daniel Pine, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of National Institutes of Health, and colleagues, shows how emotion circuitry diverges in the male and female brain during a developmental stage in which girls are at increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders.

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New Silvio O. Conte Centers Address Brain Development, Disorders

Science Update

With a mandate to use innovative, multidisciplinary research approaches to address important mental health questions, four newly funded centers have begun investigations of schizophrenia, brain development, and adolescent mood disorders.

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Anxious and Depressed Teens and Adults: Same Version of Mood Gene, Different Brain Reactions

Science Update

An NIMH study using brain imaging shows that some anxious and depressed adolescents react differently from adult patients when looking at frightening faces.

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Cells May Provide Target for New Anxiety Medications

Science Update

A specific population of brain cells could provide a target for developing new medications aimed at helping people learn to mute the fears underlying anxiety disorders, according to NIMH-supported scientists.

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Anxious and Healthy Adolescents Respond Differently to an Anxiety-provoking Situation

Science Update

Brain scans show heightened activity among anxious adolescents exposed to an anxiety-provoking situation when compared with normal controls, according to an NIMH study published in the November 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Study Identifies Three Effective Treatments for Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Press Release

Treatment that combines a certain type of psychotherapy with an antidepressant medication is most likely to help children with anxiety disorders, but each of the treatments alone is also effective.

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Emotion-Regulating Circuit Weakened in Borderline Personality Disorder

Science Update

Differences in the working tissue of the brain, called grey matter, have been linked to impaired functioning of an emotion-regulating circuit in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

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Anxious Youth Have Disturbed Brain Responses When Looking at Angry Faces

Science Update

When looking at angry faces so quickly that they are hardly aware of seeing them, youth with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have unchecked activity in the brain’s fear center, say NIMH researchers.

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Imaging Identifies Brain Regions and Chemicals Underlying Mood Disorders; May Lead to Better Treatments

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6 — Recently developed imaging techniques allow the mapping of the brain circuits and chemical systems believed responsible for a range of mood abnormalities including depression and bipolar disorder, and hold promise for improved treatments, scientists say.

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Medication-Enhanced Learning in Therapy Hailed as “Paradigm Shift” for Anxiety

Science Update

A medication that enhances learning, taken just before an exposure therapy session, may aid cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders, say NIMH-funded researchers, who adapted the technique from studies in rats.

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Human Brain Appears “Hard-Wired” for Hierarchy

Press Release

Human imaging studies have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health. They found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order – or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors. Circuitry activated by important events responded to a potential change in hierarchical status as much as it did to winning money.

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Journal Highlights Effectiveness of Research Based Psychotherapies for Youth

Science Update

Reviews of the current research on psychosocial and behavioral therapies, or psychotherapies, for children and adolescents found a number of well established and probably efficacious treatments for many mental disorders. For example, six were probably efficacious for anxiety disorders, and two were well established for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to scientists funded by NIMH and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, divisions of the National Institutes of Health.

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Co-occurring Anxiety Complicates Treatment Response for Those with Major Depression

Science Update

People with major depression accompanied by high levels of anxiety are significantly less likely to benefit from antidepressant medication than those without anxiety, according to a study based on data from the NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study. The study was published online ahead of print in January 2008, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Tomorrow’s Antidepressants: Skip the Serotonin Boost?

Science Update

New research adds to evidence of potentially better molecular targets in the brain to treat depression and other mental disorders, according to NIMH-funded scientists.

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Behavioral Therapy Effectively Treats Children with Social Phobia

Science Update

A behavioral therapy designed to treat children diagnosed with social phobia helped them overcome more of their symptoms than the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac).

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New Social Neuroscience Grants to Help Unravel Autism, Anxiety Disorders

Science Update

How genes and the environment shape the brain circuitry underlying social behavior is among the questions being addressed by three newly NIMH-funded studies.

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New Study Will Examine Effects of Excluding Anti-anxiety Medications in Medicare Part D Coverage

Science Update

A new research grant funded by NIMH will examine the costs and benefits of excluding a commonly prescribed class of anti-anxiety medications—benzodiazepines—from coverage in the new Medicare Part D program. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug coverage plan for people insured by Medicare, went into effect in January 2006.

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Half of Adults With Anxiety Disorders Had Psychiatric Diagnoses in Youth

Science Update

About half of adults with an anxiety disorder had symptoms of some type of psychiatric illness by age 15, a NIMH-funded study shows.

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Obesity Linked with Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Science Update

Results of an NIMH-funded study show that nearly one out of four cases of obesity is associated with a mood or anxiety disorder, but the causal relationship and complex interplay between the two is still unclear.

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Intermittent Explosive Disorder Affects up to 16 Million Americans

Press Release

A little-known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger is more common than previously thought, a study funded by NIMH has found.

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Gene Knockout Scores a Fearless Mouse

Press Release

Knocking out a gene in the brain's fear hub creates mice unperturbed by situations that would normally trigger instinctive or learned fear responses, researchers funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health have discovered.

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Rat Brain’s Executive Hub Quells Alarm Center if Stress is Controllable

Press Release

Treatments for mood and anxiety disorders are thought to work, in part, by helping patients control the stresses in their lives.

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Creation of New Neurons Critical to Antidepressant Action in Mice

Press Release

Blocking the formation of neurons in the hippocampus blocks the behavioral effects of antidepressants in mice, say researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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NIMH Awards Howard University $6.5 Million

Press Release

Howard University Hospital Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine (HUCM) has been awarded $6.5 million from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for a five-year project to implement and develop research studies pertaining to mood and anxiety disorders.

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