Did We Inherit Anxiety From Monkeys?

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in the United States conducted the study, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience, reports Newsweek. Over 350 monkeys, specifically younger ones were used for the study. Since anxiety in childhood is a predictor of mental illness in adulthood, researchers wanted to examine like-brains. The study found strong evidence that certain neuroconnectivity between two areas of the brain could be passed on through generations of a family. By examining the connectivity in monkeys, researchers found that the same connectivity may be present in humans, who have very similar genetic make up. One of the brain areas was the amygdala, where the “fight or flight response” interacts with the sympathetic nervous system and fear is regulated. Trauma is known to cause inflation in the amygdala and hyperactivity, which can cause anxiety.

A doctor on the study explained that the findings “strongly point to alterations in human brain function that contribute to the level of an individual’s anxiety. Most importantly, these findings are highly relevant to children with pathological anxiety, and hold the promise to guide the development of new treatment approaches.” Though the studies are a radical development in the understanding of anxiety and lead way to further investigation, the findings do have their faults. Connectivity “only accounts for around 4 percent of the variance in the anxious temperament measure,” meaning the research doesn’t provide any causation between connectivity and anxiety.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is an evolutionary trait which has prolonged the survival of the human race. Our ability to respond to threat is what has kept us alive for thousands of years. However, the threats we face today in the modern world are extremely different from those we faced when we were hunted by predatory animals. Today, our necessary function for survival can cause us to feel as though we are a state of survival all the time, when in fact we are not. We perceive feelings, people, places, and things as if they are predators threatening our livelihood, especially if we have experienced trauma. Eventually, the dysfunction of our evolutionary survival function impairs our ability to fully thrive in life.

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