Scientists May Have Uncovered The Reason Why People With Anxiety And Mood Disorders So Often Feel Unable To Escape Negative Thoughts And Emotions by D. DiSalvo
The largest brain imaging study of its kind may have found the reason why people with anxiety and mood disorders so often feel unable to escape negative thoughts and emotions.
Researchers analyzed a trove of brain scans–more than 9,000 from 226 previous functional imaging studies–that compared the brain activity of healthy adults to those diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders.
Analysis across the studies found abnormally low activity in brain regions responsible for stopping thoughts and shifting to new ones, referred to in the research as “cognitive control,” and hyperactivity in other brain regions that “process emotional thoughts and feelings.”
Brain areas that showed abnormally low activity included the inferior prefrontal and parietal cortex, the insula and the putamen, which collectively form a brain circuit that influences control over thoughts and emotions. Brain areas showing hyperactivity included the left amygdala, seat of the fight or flight response.
Taken together, these findings suggest that the brains of patients with anxiety and mood disorders are stuck in an unhealthy hotbox: on one side their brains have difficulty managing emotionally charged thoughts, and on the other they’re prone to rumination and negative emotions.
“These brain imaging findings provide a science-based explanation as to why patients with mood and anxiety disorders seem to be ‘locked in’ to negative mood states,” said Dr. Sophia Frangou, senior study author and a psychiatry professor at The University of British Columbia. “They also corroborate the patients’ experience of being unable to stop and switch away from negative thoughts and feelings.”
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