Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Anxious Children have Bigger “Fear Centers” in the Brain

By Elsevier / Jun 16, 2014 12:01 PM EDT
  • children
  • (Photo : Peter Polak / Fotolia) Children who aren't close with their parents are prone to educational and behavioral problems, a recent study shows.

The amygdala is a key "fear center" in the brain. Alterations in the development of the amygdala during childhood may have an important influence on the development of anxiety problems, reports a new study in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Like Us on Facebook


Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine recruited 76 children, 7 to 9 years of age, a period when anxiety-related traits and symptoms can first be reliably identified. The children's parents completed assessments designed to measure the anxiety levels of the children, and the children then underwent non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of brain structure and function.

The researchers found that children with high levels of anxiety had enlarged amygdala volume and increased connectivity with other brain regions responsible for attention, emotion perception, and regulation, compared to children with low levels of anxiety. They also developed an equation that reliably predicted the children's anxiety level from the MRI measurements of amygdala volume and amygdala functional connectivity.

The most affected region was the basolateral portion of the amygdala, a subregion of the amygdala implicated in fear learning and the processing of emotion-related information.

"It is a bit surprising that alterations to the structure and connectivity of the amygdala were so significant in children with higher levels of anxiety, given both the young age of the children and the fact that their anxiety levels were too low to be observed clinically," commented Dr. Shaozheng Qin, first author on this study.

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented, "It is critical that we move from these interesting cross-sectional observations to longitudinal studies, so that we can separate the extent to which larger and better connected amygdalae are risk factors or consequences of increased childhood anxiety."

"However, our study represents an important step in characterizing altered brain systems and developing predictive biomarkers in the identification for young children at risk for anxiety disorders," Qin added. "Understanding the influence of childhood anxiety on specific amygdala circuits, as identified in our study, will provide important new insights into the neurodevelopmental origins of anxiety in humans." 

Provided by Elsevier

Dutch to destroy 8,000 ducks to prevent bird flu outbreak

Dutch to destroy 8,000 ducks to prevent bird flu outbreak

Read More »

Saudi Arabia tackles MERS virus, still hunting source

Saudi Arabia tackles MERS virus, still hunting source

Read More »

Mali records new Ebola case, linked to dead nurse

Mali records new Ebola case, linked to dead nurse

Read More »

"Assassin's Creed Unity" game delay hurts GameStop's revenue

The GameStop store sign is seen at its shop in Westminster, Colorado January 14, 2014.

Read More »

New York, Missouri patients test negative for Ebola virus

1 of 2. A view of Bellevue Hospital in the Manhattan borough of New York November 20, 2014.

Read More »

U.S. entrepreneur considered suing Uber over tracking activities

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014.

Read More »

U.S. states get more, spend more on Medicaid under Obamacare: report

Six-month-old Hazel Garcia chews a pamphlet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.

Read More »

Rocket Internet to launch another 10 start-ups in 2015

The logo of of Rocket Internet, a German venture capital group is pictured in this September 24, 2014 illustration photo in Sarajevo.

Read More »

World's top drugmaker Novartis takes aim at tech

1 of 2. Joe Jimenez, CEO of Swiss drugmaker Novartis gestures during an interview with Reuters at the company's headquarters in Basel March 19, 2014. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Read More »

Hagel seeks to reassure U.S. troops about safety of Ebola mission

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel participates in the Washington Ideas Forum, in Washington October 29, 2014.

Read More »

Pfizer dampens Astra bid hopes with German Merck cancer deal

The Pfizer logo is seen at their world headquarters in New York April 28, 2014.

Read More »

AstraZeneca trumpets standalone strength in drug development

A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England April 28, 2014.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics