Understanding Brain Circuits of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders (like social anxiety) and stress disorders (like PTSD) are among the most common mental health diagnoses with a lifetime prevalence of almost 30%.

New technologies like fMRI, which allow us to scan the brain in real time have vastly increased our knowledge of the brain circuits that underly anxiety and fear.

Experts now think of anxiety disorders and PTSD as “whole brain” disorders involving the complex interplay of neurons across different brain areas.

More specifically, anxiety and stress disorders seem to involve hyper-activation of brain areas that help us detect and respond to threats, along with reduced activation of brain areas that help us modulate our reactivity to fear and stress.

These brain areas and circuits will be described in more detail below.


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