Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A Little Anxiety Is Sometimes A Good Thing, Study Shows

Date:
April 5, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Anxiety gets a lot of bad press. Dwelling on the negative can lead to chronic stress and anxiety disorders and phobias, but evolutionarily speaking, anxiety holds some functional value. In humans, learning to avoid harm is necessary not only for surviving in the face of basic threats (such as predators or rotten food), but also for avoiding more complex social or economic threats (such as enemies or questionable investments).

Anxiety gets a lot of bad press. Dwelling on the negative can lead to chronic stress and anxiety disorders and phobias, but evolutionarily speaking, anxiety holds some functional value. In humans, learning to avoid harm is necessary not only for surviving in the face of basic threats (such as predators or rotten food), but also for avoiding more complex social or economic threats (such as enemies or questionable investments).

A team of psychologists at Stanford University have identified a region of the brain, the anterior insula, which plays a key role in predicting harm and also learning to avoid it. In a new study, Gregory Samanez-Larkin and colleagues scanned the brains of healthy adults while they anticipated losing money.

Adults with greater activation of their insula while anticipating a financial loss were better at learning to avoid financial losses in a separate game several months later. Conversely, participants with low levels of insula activation had a harder time learning to avoid losses and lost more money in the game as a result.

For these subjects, higher levels of insula activation helped them to learn to avoid losses months later. However, researchers have found that excessive insula activation might prove problematic. Previous research has shown that people who are chronically fearful and anxious have abnormal patterns of insula activation. So, while people with excessive insula activity are at risk for psychological disorders like anxiety and phobias, higher levels of insula activation in the normal range may allow people to avoid potentially harmful situations.

The findings, which appear in the April issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, point toward an optimal level of anxiety. While a healthy amount of anxiety grants some survival value, too much may lead to excessive worry and clinical conditions. Β This may help to explain why anxious traits persist in humanity's genetic endowment, even as environmental threats vary over the ages.

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "A Little Anxiety Is Sometimes A Good Thing, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403104350.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, April 5). A Little Anxiety Is Sometimes A Good Thing, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403104350.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "A Little Anxiety Is Sometimes A Good Thing, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403104350.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins