A recent study of anxious monkeys illuminates subtle aspects of why and how they are anxious
- Young rhesus monkeys from a large, related family showed a clear pattern of inherited anxious temperament.
- Monkeys with anxious temperaments had higher activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus. In addition, researchers could predict an individual’s degree of anxious temperament by its brain activity.
- Genes and environmental factors affected activity in the amygdala and hippocampus in different ways, providing a brain-based understanding of how nature and nurture might interact to determine an individual’s vulnerability to developing common psychiatric disorders
The hope is that what researchers are learning about anxiety in young monkeys may someday help identify and intervene with anxious children
The new discovery may ultimately lead to new ways to detect anxiety in children, says Drew Fox, a graduate student ... and a co-author on the study.
"Markers of familial risk for anxiety could be identified by understanding alterations in specific genes that influence hippocampal function," says Fox.
The study suggests that there is a tremendous opportunity to modify the environment to prevent children from developing full-blown anxiety.