New findings may help neuroscientists pinpoint better targets for antianxiety treatments.
Anxiety disorders, which include posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects.
To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary, says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
“The targets that current antianxiety drugs are acting on are very nonspecific. We don’t actually know what the targets are for modulating anxiety-related behavior,” Tye says.
In a step toward uncovering better targets, Tye and her colleagues have discovered a communication pathway between two brain structures — the amygdala and the ventral hippocampus — that appears to control anxiety levels. By turning the volume of this communication up and down in mice, the researchers were able to boost and reduce anxiety levels… Original Article »