A brain scan study suggests that a suspect gene may increase susceptibility to anxiety and depression* by weakening a circuit for processing negative emotion. People with the depression-linked gene variant showed less gray matter and weaker connections in the mood-regulating circuit. How well the circuit was connected accounted for nearly 30 percent of their anxious temperament, researchers at the National Institute of Healths (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found. Dr. Daniel Weinberger and colleagues report on their brain imaging genetics study in the May 8, 2005 online edition of Nature Neuroscience.
"We discovered the mood-regulating circuit by using the gene to interrogate the imaging data," explained Weinberger. "The brain handles information much like an orchestra. So we asked questions akin to Are the violin and the clarinet playing the same tune and to what extent might this gene account for it?"
In this case, it turned out that the amygdala, a fear processing hub deep in the brain and the cingulate, an emotion-dampening center located near the front of the brain, were playing a duet under the baton of the depression-linked gene.
Jules Asher | EurekAlert!
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