Anxiety- neurobiological basis

The normal response to threat

  • Increased arousal and vigilence
  • Cognitive appraisal of threat and planning of response
  • Increased autonomic activity
  • Increased cortisol output from the adrenal glands

The amygdala plays a central role in mobilising these responses:

  • Learnt response state (the limbic system)
  • Amygdala is involved in response to fearful situations in humans and animals
  • The medial prefrontal cortex plays a role in reducing the fear response brought on by the amygdala.

Neurobiological theory of anxiety

Aberrant overactivity in the amygdala may be important in anxiety disorders, as might a functional disconnection between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (impaired fear extinction) so causing a pathological anxiety.

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