Saturday, April 27, 2024

Genetic Risk Factors for Anxiety

This article identifies 2 major indicators of an individual developing anxiety: genetic predisposition and the HPA axis in the brain. The HPA axis consists of the hypothalamus, anterior pituitary, and adrenal gland. Together these structures form the negative feedback-loop that is our stress response system

Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis: Structure, How It Works, Function
1. an external stressor triggers the response system
2.  the hypothalamus is stimulated and produces CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone)
3.  CRH stimulates the pitutary gland leading to the release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone)
4. ACTH then diffuses through tissue making tis way to the adrenal gland
5. the adrenal gland releases cortisol, "the stress hormone"
6. cortisol triggers a response throughout the body and begins a negative feedback response
7. the hypothalamus diminishes the stress response

This study focuses on the HPA axis as a subject of interest. The researchers found that the NR3C1 and OXTR genes (currently understood to influence stress response) have alleles that are connected to self-assessed anxiety. It is possible that the identified alleles in these genes lead to disruptions in the feedback process mentioned above. I understand this to mean the the process begins normally but the hypothalamus either does receive to can respond to "stop" signal. It was also suggested that these gene may have varying effects between genders.

I agree with the authors that these finding are very important. Understanding the mechanisms of anxiety on a genetic level can influence patient care. It is also possible that this information can be used to identify people who are more susceptible to developing axiety and potentially implement preventative care.

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