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Concept: Anxiety


 To examine the role of psychological distress (anxiety and depression) as a potential predictor of site specific cancer mortality.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Cohort study, Cohort, Epidemiology, Actuarial science


Paranoia is receiving increasing attention in its own right, since it is a central experience of psychotic disorders and a marker of the health of a society. Paranoia is associated with use of the most commonly taken illicit drug, cannabis. The objective was to determine whether the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis-∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-causes paranoia and to use the drug as a probe to identify key cognitive mechanisms underlying paranoia. A randomized, placebo-controlled, between-groups test of the effects of intravenous THC was conducted. A total of 121 individuals with paranoid ideation were randomized to receive placebo, THC, or THC preceded by a cognitive awareness condition. Paranoia was assessed extensively via a real social situation, an immersive virtual reality experiment, and standard self-report and interviewer measures. Putative causal factors were assessed. Principal components analysis was used to create a composite paranoia score and composite causal variables to be tested in a mediation analysis. THC significantly increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety, worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalous experiences, and reduced working memory capacity. The increase in negative affect and in anomalous experiences fully accounted for the increase in paranoia. Working memory changes did not lead to paranoia. Making participants aware of the effects of THC had little impact. In this largest study of intravenous THC, it was definitively demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoid thoughts in vulnerable individuals. The most likely mechanism of action causing paranoia was the generation of negative affect and anomalous experiences.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Greek loanwords, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Fear, Delusional disorder, Paranoia


Physical activity reduces the incidence and severity of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, voluntary wheel running produces anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects in rodent models. The specific neurobiological mechanisms underlying the beneficial properties of exercise, however, remain unclear. One relevant pharmacological target in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is the 5-HT(2C) receptor (5-HT(2C)R). Consistent with data demonstrating the anxiogenic consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in humans and rodents, we have previously reported that site-specific administration of the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 in the lateral/basolateral amygdala (BLA) increases shock-elicited fear while administration of CP-809101 in the dorsal striatum (DS) interferes with shuttle box escape learning. These findings suggest that activation of 5-HT(2C)R in discrete brain regions contributes to specific anxiety- and depression-like behaviors and may indicate potential brain sites involved in the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of exercise. The current studies tested the hypothesis that voluntary wheel running reduces the behavioral consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in the BLA and DS, specifically enhanced shock-elicited fear and interference with shuttle box escape learning. After 6 weeks of voluntary wheel running or sedentary conditions, the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 was microinjected into either the BLA or the DS of adult Fischer 344 rats, and shock-elicited fear and shuttle box escape learning was assessed. Additionally, in-situ hybridization was used to determine if 6 weeks of voluntary exercise changed levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA. We found that voluntary wheel running reduced the behavioral effects of CP-809101 and reduced levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in both the BLA and the DS. The current data indicate that expression of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in discrete brain sites is sensitive to physical activity status of the organism, and implicates the 5-HT(2C)R as a target for the beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Ventral tegmental area, Obesity, Cerebrum, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Anxiety disorder


Diagnostic features of emotional expressions are differentially distributed across the face. The current study examined whether these diagnostic features are preferentially attended to even when they are irrelevant for the task at hand or when faces appear at different locations in the visual field. To this aim, fearful, happy and neutral faces were presented to healthy individuals in two experiments while measuring eye movements. In Experiment 1, participants had to accomplish an emotion classification, a gender discrimination or a passive viewing task. To differentiate fast, potentially reflexive, eye movements from a more elaborate scanning of faces, stimuli were either presented for 150 or 2000 ms. In Experiment 2, similar faces were presented at different spatial positions to rule out the possibility that eye movements only reflect a general bias for certain visual field locations. In both experiments, participants fixated the eye region much longer than any other region in the face. Furthermore, the eye region was attended to more pronouncedly when fearful or neutral faces were shown whereas more attention was directed toward the mouth of happy facial expressions. Since these results were similar across the other experimental manipulations, they indicate that diagnostic features of emotional expressions are preferentially processed irrespective of task demands and spatial locations. Saliency analyses revealed that a computational model of bottom-up visual attention could not explain these results. Furthermore, as these gaze preferences were evident very early after stimulus onset and occurred even when saccades did not allow for extracting further information from these stimuli, they may reflect a preattentive mechanism that automatically detects relevant facial features in the visual field and facilitates the orientation of attention towards them. This mechanism might crucially depend on amygdala functioning and it is potentially impaired in a number of clinical conditions such as autism or social anxiety disorders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Face, Paul Ekman, Fear, Social anxiety, Social anxiety disorder


Hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania, HPD) is a disabling condition that is characterized by repetitive hair-pulling resulting in hair loss. Although there is evidence of structural grey matter abnormalities in HPD, there is a paucity of data on white matter integrity. The aim of this study was to explore white matter integrity using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in subjects with HPD and healthy controls. Sixteen adult female subjects with HPD and 13 healthy female controls underwent DTI. Hair-pulling symptom severity, anxiety and depressive symptoms were also assessed. Tract-based spatial statistics were used to analyze data on fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD). There were no differences in DTI measures between HPD subjects and healthy controls. However, there were significant associations of increased MD in white matter tracts of the fronto-striatal-thalamic pathway with longer HPD duration and increased HPD severity. Our findings suggest that white matter integrity in fronto-striatal-thalamic pathways in HPD is related to symptom duration and severity. The molecular basis of measures of white matter integrity in HPD deserves further exploration.

Concepts: Anxiety, Statistics, Symptoms, Symptom, White matter, Diffusion MRI, Imaging, Tensors


There is now compelling evidence for a link between enteric microbiota and brain function. The ingestion of probiotics modulates the processing of information that is strongly linked to anxiety and depression, and influences the neuroendocrine stress response. We have recently demonstrated that prebiotics (soluble fibres that augment the growth of indigenous microbiota) have significant neurobiological effects in rats, but their action in humans has not been reported.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Hypothalamus, Digestive system, Probiotic, Emotion, Dietary fiber, Prebiotic


The present study investigated the effect of acute stress on attentional bias to threat using behavioral and ERP methods. Sixty-two male participants were randomly assigned to a stress condition (Trier Social Stress Test) or a control condition. To examine the impact of stress-induced cortisol on attentional bias to threat, participants in the stress group were split into Low- and High cortisol responders. All participants were then administered a modified dot probe task in which the cues were neutral and angry faces. Behavioral results showed a pattern of attentional bias toward threat in the Control group but not in the stress group. For the ERPs, the P100 peaked earlier for the angry-cued targets than the neutral-cued targets in the Control group, which suggests a rapid, adaptive response toward threat. However, this effect was not observed in the stress group, suggesting a suppressed attentional bias under stress. In addition, the stress group (including both Low and High cortisol responders) showed reduced P300 amplitude to target onset than the Control group. These results suggest that acute stress disrupts attentional bias to threat including a reduction in early bias to threat in addition to a subsequent change of attention allocation.

Concepts: Anxiety, Scientific method, Psychology, Attention, Metabolic syndrome, Cognitive bias, Stress


While noise annoyance has become recognized as an important environmental stressor, its association to mental health has hardly been studied. We therefore determined the association of noise annoyance to anxiety and depression and explored the contribution of diverse environmental sources to overall noise annoyance.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, The Association, Noise pollution, Sunshine pop, Aircraft noise


Takotsubo syndrome (TTS) is typically provoked by negative stressors such as grief, anger, or fear leading to the popular term ‘broken heart syndrome’. However, the role of positive emotions triggering TTS remains unclear. The aim of the present study was to analyse the prevalence and characteristics of patients with TTS following pleasant events, which are distinct from the stressful or undesirable episodes commonly triggering TTS.

Concepts: Anxiety, Present, Time, Psychiatry, Emotion, Paul Ekman, Feeling, Emotions


Problematic internet use (PIU) has been suggested as in need of further research with a view to being included as a disorder in future Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, but lack of knowledge about the impact of internet cessation on physiological function remains a major gap in knowledge and a barrier to PIU classification. One hundred and forty-four participants were assessed for physiological (blood pressure and heart rate) and psychological (mood and state anxiety) function before and after an internet session. Individuals also completed a psychometric examination relating to their usage of the internet, as well as their levels of depression and trait anxiety. Individuals who identified themselves as having PIU displayed increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, as well as reduced mood and increased state of anxiety, following cessation of internet session. There were no such changes in individuals with no self-reported PIU. These changes were independent of levels of depression and trait anxiety. These changes after cessation of internet use are similar to those seen in individuals who have ceased using sedative or opiate drugs, and suggest PIU deserves further investigation and serious consideration as a disorder.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Blood pressure, Artery, Pulse, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Neuroticism, Internet