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Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 5: The Basal Ganglia

Posted Oct 28 2009 11:01pm

"A ganglia is a concentrated group of neurons. The basal ganglia (BG) are several ganglia that work together to induce motivation, create energy to meet goals, and even coordinate physical movement with the emotion. The basal ganglia are located under the cortex (covering) of the brain, where you do your thinking, and cover the limbic area. One part of the BG, called nucleus accumbens, is specialized to interpret pleasure when it receives the messenger dopamine. When you do something that stimulates dopamine and it flows through to this part, you feel good. This makes you want to repeat whatever you were doing that made you feel good. For this reason, the BG strongly affect motivation and energy.





A person with a good supply of dopamine in the BG will feel motivated and full of energy or high drive, but if the GABA is not working effectively, then the energy can get too high and result in tension. Additionally, even for no real reason but just out-of-the-blue because GABA" (a neurotransmitter responsible for slowing down activity in the brain so that you can stop brain cells from firing off messages) "is not working as it should, over excited activity in the neurons of the BG can trigger panic attacks. In the case of BG energy, some is good, a lot can give you drive but make you tense, and too much can flip over into panic." -The 10 Best- Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg.




"Increased basal ganglia activity is often a finding we have seen with anxiety disorders. When there is increased activity on the left side it is often associated with anxiety and irritability (expressed anxiety) and when there is increased activity on the right side there is often anxiety, social withdrawal and conflict avoidance. Increased activity in the temporal lobes has also been associated with anxiety. When there is also increased cingulate activity a person may have trouble with repetitive thoughts about his or her anxiety." -Amen Clinics


Picture is a brain scan of a 28 year old woman with chronic anxiety, conflict avoidance. Note the increased right basal ganglia activity.(the middle part of the picture where it is red). 

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