Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Even the brains of people with anxiety states can get used to fear

Date:
January 30, 2013
Source:
Medical University of Vienna
Summary:
Fear is a protective function against possible dangers that is designed to save our lives. Where there are problems with this fear mechanism, its positive effects are cancelled out: patients who have a social phobia become afraid of perfectly normal, everyday social situations because they are worried about behaving inappropriately or being thought of as stupid by other people. Scientists in Austria have now discovered that this fear circuit can be deactivated, at least in part.

Fear is a protective function against possible dangers that is designed to save our lives. Where there are problems with this fear mechanism, its positive effects are cancelled out: patients who have a social phobia become afraid of perfectly normal, everyday social situations because they are worried about behaving inappropriately or being thought of as stupid by other people. Scientists from the Centre for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology and the University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the MedUni Vienna have now discovered that this fear circuit can be deactivated, at least in part.

Related Articles


In a study by Ronald Sladky, led by Christian Windischberger (Centre for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology), which has recently been published in the online journal PLOS ONE, functional magnetic resonance tomography was used to measure the changes in the brain activity of socially phobic patients and healthy test subjects while they were looking at faces. This experiment simulates social confrontation with other people without actually placing the individual in an intolerable situation of anxiety.

Permanent confrontation has a diminishing effect on anxiety "The study demonstrated that people with social phobia initially exhibit greater activity in the amygdala and in the medial, prefrontal cortex of the brain, however after a few faces this activity recedes," says Sladky. This contradicts the assumption made thus far that the emotional circuit of socially phobic individuals is unable to adapt adequately to this stress-inducing situation.

Permanent confrontation with the test task not only led to a solution to the "problem" being found more quickly among the patients with anxiety, but also to some areas of the brain being bypassed which otherwise were over-stimulated, a characteristic typical of anxiety. Says Sladky: "We therefore concluded that there are functional control strategies even in the emotional circuits of people with social phobia, although the mechanisms take longer to take effect in these individuals. The misregulation of these parts of the brain can therefore be compensated to a degree."

These findings could, according to Sladky, provide a starting point for the development of personalised training programmes that will help affected individuals to conquer unpleasant situations in their everyday lives more effectively. In Austria, around 200,000 people a year are affected by some form of social phobia. The number of people who suffer this condition without seeking help for it is likely to be very high, since many affected individuals fail to seek assistance or do so only too late as a result of their anxiety.

Cooperation for a better understanding of psychiatric conditions The recent study was developed from interdisciplinary research collaboration between the Centre for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology (led by Wolfgang Drexler) and the University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (led by Siegfried Kasper). The aim of the collaboration project is to arrive at a better, neuroscientific understanding of psychiatric conditions in order to develop new possibilities for diagnosis and treatment.

The five research clusters at the MedUni Vienna Neurosciences and imaging are two of the five research clusters operating at the MedUni Vienna. These specialist areas are increasingly focusing on fundamental and clinical research. The three other research clusters at the MedUni Vienna are cancer research / oncology, allergology / immunology / infectious diseases and vascular / cardiac medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Medical University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ronald Sladky, Anna Hφflich, Jacqueline Atanelov, Christoph Kraus, Pia Baldinger, Ewald Moser, Rupert Lanzenberger, Christian Windischberger. Increased Neural Habituation in the Amygdala and Orbitofrontal Cortex in Social Anxiety Disorder Revealed by fMRI. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e50050 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050050

Cite This Page:

Medical University of Vienna. "Even the brains of people with anxiety states can get used to fear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082451.htm>.
Medical University of Vienna. (2013, January 30). Even the brains of people with anxiety states can get used to fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082451.htm
Medical University of Vienna. "Even the brains of people with anxiety states can get used to fear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082451.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) — Ruby Holt spent most of her 100 years on a farm in rural Tennessee, picking cotton and raising four children. She saw the ocean for the first time thanks to her assisted living center and a group that grants wishes to the elderly. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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