University Wisconsin Madison Childhood anxiety is a condition supposedly noted in children who remain socially unconnected. Apparently researchers from the UW-Madison pinpoint elevated brain activity in the amygdala and anterior hippocampus to help decide new strategies for early detection and treatment of at-risk children. Scientists assume children having higher activity in these brain regions to develop anxiety and depression.

In a prior investigation, it was concluded that anxious young monkeys are similar to children who are temperamentally anxious. In the course of the present research, experts assayed the extent of genetic and environmental factors to promote activity in the anxiety-related brain regions, making children accessible. Claimed to be the largest imaging research of non-human primates, scientists scanned the brains of 238 young rhesus monkeys. It was mentioned that all the study subjects belonged to the same extended family.

“Children with anxious temperaments suffer from extreme shyness, persistent worry, and increased bodily responses to stress. It has long been known that these children are at increased risk of developing anxiety, depression and associated substance abuse disorders,” affirmed Dr. Ned H. Kalin, chair of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, who led the research.

During the investigations, monkeys were subjected to a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. This scan is apparently employed in humans to evaluate the regional brain function by calculating the brain’s use of glucose. Researchers found young rhesus monkeys from a large related family to have a clear pattern of inherited anxious temperament. Those monkeys who were registered with anxious temperaments revealed higher activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus.

While analyzing, the scientists were supposedly able to determine an individual’s degree of anxious temperament by the brain activity. Activity in the amygdala and hippocampus seemed to be affected by genes and environmental factors in different ways. The scientists were seemingly provided with a brain-based understanding of the way nature and nurture can interact for ascertaining an individual’s ability to acquire common psychiatric disorders.

Kalin explained, “We believe that young children who have higher activity in these brain regions are more likely to develop anxiety and depression as adolescents and adults, and are also more likely to develop drug and alcohol problems in an attempt to treat their distress.”

It was uncovered that activity in the anterior hippocampus is more heritable as compared to the amygdale. The findings may lead to new ways of identifying anxiety in children. Markers of familial risk for anxiety are seemingly found by understanding modifications in specific genes promoting hippocampal function. It was concluded that alteration in the environment can probably avoid children from developing anxiety.

The research is published in the August 12 edition of the journal Nature.