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Anxiety and your brain

Anxious woman

I just read a great article about the research Lindsay Halladay is doing in her lab at Santa Clara University.  She is looking at the role stress, especially in early childhood, has on the development of neural circuits in the brain and the impact on long term mental health. 

Studying the biological roots underlying mental health challenges (I prefer to call them brain health challenges) can help relieve the burden on the person struggling that there is something wrong with their character, they made bad choices or didn’t try hard enough.

She and her researchers are looking at the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, more commonly known as the “extended amygdala.”

It links the central amygdala, the cortical areas, and the physiological stress response mechanism. This network plays a crucial role in the processes of learning related to fear and reward, as well as in making decisions. Additionally, the extended amygdala experiences significant growth during the initial months of a newborn’s life, a phase when sex hormones notably influence the maturation of the brain.

Infants who experience stress in early life overactivate the response system, using more than their fair share of resources, and other brain areas don’t develop properly.  This can result in mental health issues in later life due to this routinized hyperactivity.

I would only take exception to her view that these results can be permanent.  We know from our work with clients that the brain is capable of remarkable resilience and can change its patterns with neurofeedback training.

Her lab is doing good work adding to our knowledge about basic brain behavior. 

 Here’s a link to the article.

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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional. 

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