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Do you slip up when anxious? Here’s why

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London: British neuroscientists have identified the brain network system that causes us to stumble and stall, which may have a disastrous effect on our performance.

Scientists at the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre and Brighton and Sussex Medical School were able to pinpoint the brain area that causes the performance mishaps during an experiment using functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging (fMRI).

 

Previous study has shown that people tend to exert more force when they know they are being watched. For example, pianists unconsciously press keys harder when they play in front of an audience compared to when playing alone.

In the new study, participants’ brain activity was monitored while carrying out a task that required them to exert a precise amount of force when gripping an object.

During the experiment, they viewed video footage of two people whom they believed were evaluating their performance. They then repeated the task while viewing video footage of two people who appeared to be evaluating the performance of someone else.

Participants reported that they felt more anxious when they believed they were being observed. Under this condition, they gripped the object harder without realising it.

Scan results showed that an area of the brain that helps us to control our fine sensorimotor functions – the inferior parietal cortex (IPC) – became deactivated when people felt they were being observed.

In fact, this part of the brain works with another region – the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) – to form what neuroscientists refer to as the action-observation network (AON). The AON is involved in “mentalisation” processes by which we infer what another person is thinking, based on his/her facial expressions and direction of gaze.

The pSTS conveys this information to the IPC, which then generates appropriate motor actions. If we feel our observer wants us to do well, we will perform well. But if we pick up negative cues, our IPC is deactivated and our performance falls apart.

The study results were published recently in the journal Scientific Reports. (IANS)

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Stress During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Mood Disorder in Daughters

The researchers then used brain imaging to examine connectivity in the newborns soon after birth, before the external environment had begun shaping brain development,

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Maternal stress can increase mood disorder risk in daughters: Study
Maternal stress can increase mood disorder risk in daughters: Study Pixabay

Daughters born to women with high levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — during pregnancy could be at an increased risk of developing anxious and depressive-like behaviours by the age of two, a new study has reported.

The effect of elevated maternal cortisol appeared to result from patterns of stronger communication between brain regions important for sensory and emotion processing.

It could be because maternal stress may alter connectivity in amygdala — a brain region important for emotion processing — in the developing foetus, suggesting that vulnerability for developing a mood disorder is programmed from birth.

This could be an early point at which the risk for common psychiatric disorders begins to differ in males and females, the researchers explained.

“Higher maternal cortisol during pregnancy was linked to alterations in the newborns’ functional brain connectivity, affecting how different brain regions can communicate with each other,” said Claudia Buss from Charite University Medicine Berlin in Germany.

Muslim Women, Stress
Higher maternal cortisol during pregnancy was linked to alterations in the newborns’ functional brain connectivity. Pixabay

“Many mood and anxiety disorders are approximately twice as common in females as in males. The study highlights one unexpected sex-specific risk factor for mood and anxiety disorders in females,” said John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, in which the study is published.

Conversely, sons born to mothers with high cortisol during pregnancy did not demonstrate the stronger brain connectivity, or an association between maternal cortisol and mood symptoms, the researchers said.

For the study, the team measured cortisol levels over multiple days in early, mid and late pregnancy.

Also Read: Microbes May be Stirring Up Anxiety and Depression in Obese People

Measurements taken from nearly 100 mothers reflected typical variation in maternal cortisol levels.

The researchers then used brain imaging to examine connectivity in the newborns soon after birth, before the external environment had begun shaping brain development, and measured infant anxious and depressive-like behaviours at two years of age. (IANS)

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