Decoding the chemistry of fear
Ask a dozen people about their greatest fears, and you’ll likely get a dozen different responses. That, along with the complexity of the human brain, makes fear—and its close cousin, anxiety—difficult to study. For this reason, clinical anti-anxiety medicines have mixed results, even though they are broadly prescribed. In fact, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug.
A team of investigators from the Salk Institute uncovered new clues about the mechanisms of fear and anxiety through an unlikely creature: the tiny nematode worm. By analyzing the responses of worms exposed to chemicals secreted by its natural predator and studying the underlying molecular pathways, the team uncovered a rudimentary fear-like response that has parallels to human anxiety. Such insights may eventually help refine prescriptions for current anti-anxiety drugs and enable the development of new drugs to treat conditions like PTSD and panic disorder. Read more »