Anxiety can trip up decision-making

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder say anxiety may affect brain mechanisms key to making decisions.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests anxiety weakens "neural inhibition" -- a process in which a nerve cell suppresses activity in another nerve cell. Neural inhibition seems critical to making choices, the study says.


"Understanding more about how we make choices, how the brain is doing this and what the mechanisms are, could allow scientists to develop new treatments for things such as anxiety disorders," study leader Yuko Munakata says in a statement.

Munakata and colleagues tested neural inhibition's role in decision-making by creating a computer model of the brain -- a neural network simulation. They looked at the effects on people of taking midazolam -- a drug that increases inhibition -- and found the drug affected only the area of making choices and seemed to help make decision-making easier.

The researchers also observed brain activity in those with high levels of anxiety.

"We found that the worse their anxiety was, the worse they were at making decisions, and the activity in their left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was less typical," Munakata says.

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