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

Cigarette smoking by U.S. adults reaches record low: CDC

A woman smokes a cigarette in this illustration picture taken in Paris, October 8, 2014.

Read More »

Breast cancer recurrence risk down since 1980s

The world's largest awareness ribbon made of flowers is seen from above during the UAE leg of the Avon Walk around the world for Breast Cancer Awareness walkathon in Zaabeel park in Dubai, November 16, 2007.

Read More »

U.S. approves GSK's purchase of Novartis vaccine business: companies

The signage for the GlaxoSmithKline building is pictured in Hounslow, west London June 18, 2013.

Read More »

U.S. government says 462,125 people signed up for 2015 Obamacare plans

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. The federal government's portal logged over 2.8 million visitors by afternoon October 2, largely in an attempt to sign up for Obamacare.

Read More »

East Coast storm threatens Thanksgiving travel

Cars make their way through the Washington bridge in New York November 26, 2014.

Read More »

Ebola vaccine from Glaxo passes early safety test

Ebola vaccine from Glaxo passes early safety test

Read More »

Physicists solve mystery of why cats rule, dogs drool

A Greyhound dog drinks water after a race in Santiago city, in this file picture taken March 1, 2014.

Read More »

U.N. to miss Dec 1 Ebola target due to rising Sierra Leone cases

A health worker fixes another health worker's protective suit in the Aberdeen district of Freetown, Sierra Leone, October 14, 2014.

Read More »

U.S. introduces menu calorie labeling to fight obesity

A pizza is served in Chicago January 20, 2010.

Read More »

New York's Cuomo warns snow-hit Buffalo of risk to roofs

Wreckage lays at a collapsed house following a massive snow storm in Alden, New York November 24, 2014.

Read More »

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 »

Real Time Analytics