We all encounter challenges and obstacles in life, such as divorce, death, illness and unemployment. But while some people are highly resilient and able to cope with these stresses, others struggle deeply, and may experience anxiety and depression as a result.
So why is it that some of us thrive in the face of life’s trials, while others suffer? Neuroscientists may have found a clue to psychological vulnerability within a tiny emotion-processing center in the brain.
In a study published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, researchers from Duke University found that measuring the activity of the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain that determines how we respond to threats, could predict whether individuals would react to stressful life events with anxiety or depression — as early as four years before these reactions occur.
Often, individuals only access treatment when depression and anxiety has become so chronic and difficult to live with that it forces them to go to a clinic,” Duke postdoctoral researcher Johnna Swartz said in a statement. “With a brain marker, we could potentially guide people to seek treatment earlier on, before the disorders become so life altering and disruptive that the person can’t go on.”