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Phobias Associated With Altered Brain Response

brainNew research discovers a biological link to the common anxiety disorder known as generalized social phobia.

Investigators discovered the condition is accompanied by an altered brain response to negative statements or criticisms.

“Generalized social phobia is characterized by fear/avoidance of social situations and fear of being judged negatively by others,” the authors write as background information in the article.

“It is the most common anxiety disorder in the general population, with the lifetime prevalence estimated at 13.3 percent, and it is associated with a high risk for depression, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide.”

Previous studies have found differences in the way brains of affected individuals respond to facial expressions, suggesting that the condition involves increased responsiveness to social stimuli in areas linked to emotion.

The new research reveals that patients with generalized social phobia respond differently than others to negative comments about themselves.

Karina Blair, Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health, compared functional MRI (fMRI) scans of 17 unmedicated individuals with generalized social phobia to those of 17 controls who were the same age and sex and had the same IQ but did not have the disorder.

“During fMRI scans, individuals read positive (e.g., You are beautiful), negative (e.g., You are ugly) and neutral (e.g., You are human) comments that could be either about the self or about somebody else (e.g., He is beautiful),” the authors write.

The patients with generalized social phobia showed increased blood flow in their medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala—areas of the brain linked to concepts of self as well as fear, emotion and stress response—when reading negative statements about themselves.

However, there were no differences between the two groups in response to negative comments referring to others or neutral or positive comments referring to either self or others.

“Given that medial prefrontal cortex regions are involved in representations of the self, it might be suggested that these regions, together with the amygdala, play a primary role in the development and maintenance of generalized social phobia and that the pathology in the disorder at least partly reflects a negative attitude toward the self, particularly in response to social stimuli—that in generalized social phobia what engages the mind is others’ criticism,” the authors conclude.

“This highly context-dependent response in generalized social phobia helps constrain existing models of the disorder and may thus guide future therapeutic formulations in the treatment of the disorder.”

They study was published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Phobias Associated With Altered Brain Response

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Phobias Associated With Altered Brain Response. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/10/07/phobias-associated-with-altered-brain-response/3080.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.