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Anxiety Leads to Poor Decision Making

It’s not uncommon for people to experience so-called “butterflies in their stomachs” from time to time, especially when they have a big event or decision coming up. For example, it’s not unusual to be a little nervous when speaking in front of a crowd or going in for a job interview. Unfortunately, for some people, it’s more than just being a little nervous—it’s having anxiety, which can control their daily lives. And according to a recent study, anxiety can actually lead to poor decision making.

The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has reported that anxiety disorders, which include everything from social anxiety disorder to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), affect roughly 18.1 percent of the American population. Recent research performed by Bita Moghaddam and a team of colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania’s Department of Neuroscience has revealed that anxiety doesn’t just affect individuals emotionally, but can also impact decision-making, which in turn can negatively affect everyday life. These results were recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Moghaddam and her team analyzed the brain cells in the prefrontal cortex of two different groups of rats as they performed decision-making tasks. The decision made by the rats affected whether they would receive a reward. One of the groups of rats was given a low dosage of an anxiety-inducing drug, while the other group was given a placebo injection. It was revealed that the anxiety-induced rats made many more mistakes in their decision-making than the non-anxious rats. It’s important to note that the choices the rats had in the decision-making process involved information that allowed for a logical choice to be made in order to receive the reward.

The research revealed that the decision-making mistakes were caused by the effect that anxiety has on the neurons that have the specific task of making choices. Basically, anxiety does not over-engage brain circuits like it was originally believed— instead, it disengages brain cells in a specialized manner. Here at The Benefits Store, we make sure that California residents are kept up to date with all health related news.


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