Scientists in Germany have learned how our brains keep us from letting go of anxiety after a trauma. In other words, they’ve learned what keeps us anxious. Their study was published in a July 2012 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience. The results can help open up new paths in the treatment of trauma patients, according to these scientists.
In experiments, scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin showed that feelings of anxiety don’t go away if too little dynorphin is released into the brain. Dynorphins are related to endorphins (which many know as producing a pleasurable feeling in exercise, for example). They’re a subset of what are called peptides, which play a role in human motivation, emotion, attachment behavior, the response to stress and pain, and the control of food intake. In this case, dynorphin has been identified in relationship to anxiety. Too little, and the anxiety may continue long after a traumatic event takes place.
Bottom line: Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin have shown that too little of the brain peptide dynorphin can keep humans in a state of anxiety, long after a stress event.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.