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Is the secret to anxiety in young women hidden in our brain chemistry?

Date:
March 19, 2024
Source:
University of Surrey
Summary:
The development of anxiety in girls and young women may stem from an imbalance between two crucial brain chemicals, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, according to a new study. This discovery offers promising insights into potential treatment avenues for girls and women dealing with anxiety.
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The development of anxiety in girls and young women may stem from an imbalance between two crucial brain chemicals, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) and Glutamate, according to a new study from the University of Surrey. This discovery offers promising insights into potential treatment avenues for girls and women dealing with anxiety.

The study revealed that as young women mature, the levels of GABA (a calming brain chemical) increase, while those of glutamate, known for its role in boosting brain activity, decrease.

Dr Nicola Johnstone, a Research Fellow at the University of Surrey's School of Psychology and co-author of the study, said:

"Our research indicates that the equilibrium between GABA and glutamate in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex serves as a vital indicator of anxiety levels. While glutamate propels brain activity, GABA acts as a brake. Our findings suggest that anxiety, often characterised by impaired rational thought, is intricately linked to the overactive braking system in the brain."

These revelations not only shed light on the underlying mechanisms of anxiety but also pave the way for targeted interventions that address the delicate balance of GABA and glutamate in the brain.

Dr Kathrin Cohen Kadosh, Associate Professor in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Surrey and co-author of the study, said:

"Grasping how key brain chemicals, GABA and glutamate, fluctuate during important growth stages like adolescence is vital for spotting and stopping anxiety disorders early. This study shines a light on the possibility of focusing on these brain chemicals for new treatments, particularly in young women."

By unravelling the mysteries of brain chemistry, the researchers aim to offer more effective treatments for anxiety, ultimately empowering girls and young women to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

The research used 81 participants from two age groups:

  • 49 participants aged 10-12 years
  • 32 participants aged 18-25 years

The team used a brain imaging technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure the levels of the brain chemicals in different areas of the brain.

The research has been published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.


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Materials provided by University of Surrey. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicola Johnstone, Kathrin Cohen Kadosh. Excitatory and inhibitory neurochemical markers of anxiety in young females. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2024; 66: 101363 DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2024.101363

Cite This Page:

University of Surrey. "Is the secret to anxiety in young women hidden in our brain chemistry?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240319123028.htm>.
University of Surrey. (2024, March 19). Is the secret to anxiety in young women hidden in our brain chemistry?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240319123028.htm
University of Surrey. "Is the secret to anxiety in young women hidden in our brain chemistry?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/03/240319123028.htm (accessed April 21, 2024).

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