Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found that “a neural circuit…connects the lateral septum (LS) with other brain structures in a manner that directly influence anxiety,” according to an article appearing in ScienceDaily. Most studies of anxiety disorders focus only on the amygdala, an area of the brain involved with the fear response. The team of researchers investigated the function of nerves between the LS and various brain regions, testing for the inhibition of anxiety in the presence of stressors. Using mice as test subjects, Anthony et al. found that the inhibitory neurons in the LS of mice actually produced more anxiety when activated. They then concluded that neurons in the hypothalamus, a structure connected to the LS via nerve pathways, were also inhibited, leading to an activation of neurons in the paraventricular nucleus, an area associated with the release of cortisol. Thus, with an increase in stress and activation of the LS and the hypothalamus, the cortisol levels increased. Anthony and his team are hopeful that these findings will be used for future drug development, specifically a new drug that would inhibit LS neurons to reduce anxiety.
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