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

Let nature play a role in climate adaptation, experts urge: TRFN

Delegates take notes during a plenary session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 13, 2014.

Read More »

U.N. talks agree building blocks for new-style climate deal in 2015

Delegates listen as COP 20 President and Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal makes an announcement during a plenary session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 12, 2014.

Read More »

Paris climate summit faces tougher job after modest Lima deal

Delegates talk during a break at a plenary session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 12, 2014.

Read More »

Fractures are major cause of older women’s hospitalizations

Fractures are major cause of older women’s hospitalizations

Read More »

Cost of not supporting breastfeeding may be millions

Cost of not supporting breastfeeding may be millions

Read More »

Taking HIV prevention pill may not encourage risky sex: U.S. study

Taking HIV prevention pill may not encourage risky sex: U.S. study

Read More »

Sony hacking highlights challenge to CEO Hirai's 'One Sony' vision

An entrance gate to Sony Pictures Entertainment at the Sony Pictures lot is pictured in Culver City, California April 14, 2013.

Read More »

Amazon workers strike in Germany as Christmas orders peak

A Verdi union scarf is seen outside the Amazon logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 15, 2014.

Read More »

U.S. faces tough questions in Apple e-books antitrust appeal

A general view of an Apple store in the Manhattan borough of New York September 7, 2014.

Read More »

Ebola toll in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia reaches 6,583: WHO

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun July 20, 2014.

Read More »

Shock treatment: what's missing from Sierra Leone's Ebola response

World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward gestures during a news conference on the WHO response and challenges to control the Ebola outbreak at the United Nations in Geneva December 1, 2014.

Read More »

Top court rejects Arizona appeal over abortion drug law

People wait in line to enter the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington November 10, 2014.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics