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Certain risk factors for anxiety and depression are inherited

Certain risk factors for anxiety and depression are inherited. Around 40 million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder and it’s estimated that one in five people worldwide battle with anxiety.

It’s one of the most common mental illnesses and one of the most treatable, but like so many psychiatric treatment options, the symptoms of anxiety are targeted rather than addressing the underlying mechanisms at work.

Now, a new study has found that the differences in brain connectivity in regions involved with fear and anxiety are heritable.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Maryland conducted a study on rhesus macaques as a model for extremely inhibited, anxious temperament (AT) which in children greatly increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in life.

The results were published in the journal JNeurosci and show that some risk factors for developing anxiety disorders can be passed on through the generations.

Hundreds of related rhesus monkeys were part of the study and the researchers used brain imaging techniques to scan the brains of the rhesus macaques.

The researchers discovered connectivity between two regions of the rhesus’ brains correlated with an anxious temperament in pre-adolescent rhesus macaques.

Early AT is a risk factor for anxiety and depression in humans and because the study was able to link brain connectivity to anxiety in related monkeys, there’s potential for understanding the underlying causes of AT in children with further studies on non-human primates.

The researchers say that the study could potentially help create new treatments in preventing anxiety disorders in at-risk children that target the cause, not the symptoms.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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