Facebook Pixel

Study Examines Neural Bases of Social Anxiety Disorder

Rate This

Social anxiety disorder is thought to involve emotional hyperactivity, cognitive distortions and ineffective emotion regulation. NARSAD Investigator Turhan Canli of Stony Brook University participated with colleagues at Stanford University in a study of the neural bases of reaction to social and physical threats in relation to severity of social anxiety symptoms.

In the study, reported in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the participants, 15 adults with social anxiety disorder and 17 healthy controls, were first shown pictures of violent physical events , photos of people being beaten, stabbed or killed. All reacted similarly. Everyone's amygdala, an area of the brain that deals with emotion, was activated, and everyone was able to give themselves messages of reassurance and safety so that, as the MRI showed, they could tap into the cognitive regions of their brain needed to relax.

But when the participants were shown images of a perceived social threat -- such as a photo of an angry face -- the healthy controls were able to dismiss negative feelings whereas the group with social anxiety had a harder time shaking them off.

"The brain areas associated with cognitive controls were recruited more intensively by the healthier adults compared to anxiety patients,� said Philippe Goldin of Stanford, the lead author of the study. �Social phobics are more challenged by social threats. They take them much more personally."

These findings help to elucidate potential neural mechanisms of emotion regulation that might serve as biomarkers for interventions. The researchers are now looking for ways to best help people with social anxiety disorder overcome the anxiety through clinical trials that offer cognitive behavioral therapy or stress reduction training.

(This article was adapted with permission of Stanford University.)


Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.