Brain researchers have investigated how anxiety can be inherited from parents to children. Brain function in a specific circuit in the brain shows a high degree of heredity and is associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety problems. Vulnerability to anxiety is hereditary, the researchers conclude.

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Eurekalert, which is a website where new research findings are published, writes:

A new study in an extended monkey family provides important insight into how the risk of developing anxiety and depression can pass from parents to children.

 

Overactivity in a particular circuit of the brain increases the risk of anxiety and depression

The main findings of the study are that overactivity in a specific circuit of the brain involving three brain areas is inherited from generation to generation, and where such overactivity in the brain carries a higher risk of developing anxiety and depressive disorders.

The overactivity of these three brain regions is inherited brain changes that are directly linked to the risk later in life of developing anxiety and depression, says Ned Kalin who is one of the researchers behind the study.

This is a big step in understanding the neural (brain-organic) basis for hereditary anxiety. 

It was the function of these brain areas - through an overactivation in the areas - and not the size of the brain structures that was different in those with higher heritability for anxiety.

 

- Vulnerability to anxiety is hereditary

The researchers found that about 35 percent of the variation in anxiety-like tendencies is explained by family history.

Previous research from the same research group has also shown that anxious temperament is hereditary.  

About half of children who show extreme anxiety also develop stress-related mental disorders later in life, Eurekalert.org reports. 

The researchers emphasize that the findings provide new insight into the hereditary risk of anxiety and depression, and believe that the findings could also be important for future psychological help for people who have a high heritability for anxiety. But not least, the study shows that vulnerability to anxiety has a high degree of heredity.

Our genes shape our brain to help make us who we are, the researchers conclude.

 

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Written by

ove heradstveit

Ove Heradstveit

Psychologist, specialist in clinical community psychology. PhD.
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