Mental, social, and inherited factors all play a role in anxiety disorders. In an article published online on February 7, 2017 in Molecular Psychiatry, a research team from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, describes a hitherto unknown genetic pathway for developing such diseases: The scientists pinpointed at least four variants of the GLRB gene (glycine receptor B) as risk factors for anxiety and panic disorders. More than 5,000 voluntary participants and 500 patients afflicted by panic disorder took part in the study that delivered these results. In Germany, approximately 15 percent of adults suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. Some people may have an extreme fear of spiders or other objects while others have breathing difficulties and accelerated heart beat in small rooms or large gatherings of people. With some afflicted persons, the anxiety attacks occur for no apparent cause. Many patients suffer from the detrimental impacts on their everyday lives - they often have problems at work and withdraw from social contacts. The Molecular Psychiatry article is titled “GLRB Allelic Variation Associated with Agoraphobic Cognitions, Increased Startle Response and Fear Network Activation: A Potential Neurogenetic Pathway to Panic Disorder.” How are fear and anxiety triggered? How do anxiety disorders arise and evolve? Scientists from Münster, Hamburg, and Würzburg have looked into these questions within the scope of Collaborative Research Center (CRC) TR 58 funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Their goal is to develop new therapies that are better tailored to the individual patients. Anxiety disorders can be treated with drugs and behavior therapy for instance.
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