car accident, the loss of a loved one and financial trouble are just a few of the myriad stressors we may encounter in our lifetimes. Some of us take it in stride, while others go on to develop anxiety or depression. How well will we deal with the inevitable lows of life? A clue to this answer, according to a new Duke University study, is found in an almond-shaped structure deep within our brains: the amygdala. By measuring activity of this area, which is crucial for detecting and responding to danger, researchers say they can tell who will become depressed or anxious in response to stressful life events, as far as four years down the road. Published online on February 4, 2015, in Neuron, the results may eventually lead to new strategies to treat depression and anxiety and prevent them from occurring in the first place." Note that a video of the authors discussing their results accompaniees both the abstract and the Often, individuals only access treatment when depression and anxiety has become so chronic and difficult to live with that it forces them to go to a clinic," said the study's first author Johnna Swartz, a Duke postdoctoral researcher in the lab of senior author Ahmad Hariri. "With a brain marker, we could potentially guide people to seek treatment earlier on, before the disorders become so life altering and disruptive that the person can't go on." Small studies of people at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as soldiers deployed to combat zones, have hinted at the link between individual differences in brain activity and the ability to handle stressors. Those studies also focused on the amygdala -- for its established link to psychiatric disorders including PTSD, anxiety and depression -- but included participants who had endured highly traumatic events such as active combat.
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