Uncertainty about future linked to specific brain region

Every human being is worried about the future – the unknown, dark, hidden and unpredictable. Some people worry excessively about what lies ahead. Gradually, as the worries persist, they make way for much serious problem – anxiety. The problem may soon take the form of a mental disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia and panic attacks.

Anxiety disorders are largely associated with one area of the brain that has an impact on the ability of an individual to deal with uncertain future and lack of control over the negative impact of these threats. This part is called the striatum, which is responsible for voluntary movement as well as cognitive, learning, motivation and other functions.

There are studies that provide an in-depth understanding of this part of the brain, helping us understand how anxiety disorders are caused and how they can be treated effectively. According to a research published in the American Psychological Association (APA) journal in May 2017, understanding the uncertainty and ambiguity of possible future threats is important to understanding anxiety disorders. Lead researcher Justin Kim from Dartmouth College states that the research findings suggest a strong “relationship between an individual’s ability to deal with this uncertainty and the volume of gray matter within a specific area of the brain.”

Striatum linked to future uncertainty

The research involved 61 students and the data that was collected through MRI scans after the participants had undertaken a survey designed to capture their ability to tolerate the uncertainty of the future. Their individual scores were compared with the “intolerance of uncertainty scores.” It was found that those who found it difficult to tolerate the uncertainty had a relatively enlarged striatum.

In this context, another study that was published in the open access journal PLOS Biology in November 2016 also mentioned the role of brain signaling chemicals and how they impact how we deal with uncertainty. The study which involved 128 participants employed pharmacological interventions and novel computations models to determine how these chemicals like noradrenaline, acetylcholine and dopamine enable the brain to learn the changing relationships in our environment, shedding more light on how to deal with uncertainty. It highlights that noradrenaline regulates our estimation of the instability in the environment, acetylcholine helps us adapt and dopamine pushes us to act on our beliefs about the uncertainty.

However, Kim mentioned that the relationship between the size of the striatum and uncertainty can also happen with healthy individuals and that it does not specifically mean that individuals with enlarged striatum have OCD or GAD. The  importance of a professional diagnosis when dealing with symptoms of mental disorders is more crucial in order to ensure full recovery.

Anxiety disorders are treatable

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders and interfere with everyday tasks. They can cause physiological complications also such as high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. However, they are treatable and mental health care providers can provide treatment through medication, therapy or both in order to help a person overcome the illness and lead a well-balanced life.

If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona can provide you with the necessary information related to it and connect you to the finest anxiety disorder treatment clinic in Arizona delivering evidence-based recovery programs. Call us on our 24/7 helpline (866) 425-9317 or chat with an expert to know more about anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona.