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Adolescent Anxiety

April 1, 2016

Variations in a fear-controlling brain circuit could be a factor in adolescent anxiety disorders.



Leaving childhood behind can bring uncertainty – and anxiety. (Pexels)


The anxious adolescent brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When both mice and people hit adolescence, they become more prone to anxiety. To learn why, Cornell neuroscientist Dylan Gee and her colleagues conducted brain scans of over 1000 young people from age three to twenty, as well as mouse neurostudies.  They focused on connections between the brain’s fear center, called the amygdala, and a brain circuit that helps us forget fearful memories and regulate emotion.

DYLAN GEE (Weil Cornell Medical College):

What happened is that we discovered genetic variation that emerges during adolescence in this circuit, which we think is associated with anxiety.


In humans, that variation wasn’t expressed in the brain until the age of twelve, and correlated closely with self-reported anxiety levels. Gee says the work, which is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one step toward a goal of more personalized medicine and new therapies for anxiety disorders. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.