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Scientists have found that increasing the levels of a molecule in a particular part of the brain can reduce anxious temperament in young monkeys.
The finding sheds light on the origins of anxiety disorders and how it might be possible to devise early treatments for those at risk.
Although there are some effective treatments for anxiety disorders, they do not work for everybody. Also, in some cases, they do not treat all of the symptoms.
Researchers from the University of California (UC), Davis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the State University of New York in Brooklyn worked on the new study.
The team describes the findings in a recent Biological Psychiatry paper.
An anxious temperament is a risk factor for anxiety disorders and depression. Children who are extremely shy and nervous are more likely both to develop these conditions later in life and to abuse alcohol and drugs.
In earlier work with young rhesus macaques, the researchers had identified that the amygdala forms a central part of the brain circuitry of anxious temperament.
The amygdala is a brain region that has a key role in a person's emotions.
Neurotrophin-3 and anxious temperament
In the new study, the team used genetic, imaging, and behavioral methods to probe the molecular components of the anxious temperament brain circuit.
The search led them to a handful of molecules from which they selected a single one, neurotrophin-3, to investigate further.