In a recent interview, former Disney star and singer Selena Gomez said that she does not think she will ever be able to overcome anxiety and depression. But Selena's fans should be delighted to know that she can overcome the issue because neuroscientists have finally discovered a cure o deal with anxiety disorders.
In a new study, neuroscientists at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have identified the anxiety cells in the hippocampus (a section of the brain in both mice and humans that is thought to help with learning, memories, and emotions) of mice brain, hoping that this could lead them to ways through which they can cure the anxiety disorder.
The research which is published in the journal named Neuron, the finding can be a breakthrough in treating anxiety as nearly several adults are suffering from the anxiety disorder in the United States.
To understand and identify the anxiety cells in mice, the researchers recorded the cell activity in the hippocampus in the brain and watched when and which cells were fired first in stressful situations. To create an environment of stress, the researchers used a technique known as optogenetics to control the signaling of the neurons. They turned on and off the cells' activity in the brain to identify the higher or lower level of anxious behavior.
"We call these anxiety cells because they only fire when the animals are in place that are innately frightening to them. For a mouse, that's an open area where they're more exposed to predators, or an elevated platform," said Rene Hen, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at CUIMC and one of the lead researchers.
Anxiety is an emotional response to a distant threat, which can be critical at times, as per the researchers. But "Now that we've found these cells in the hippocampus (of mice), it opens up new areas for exploring treatment ideas that we didn't know existed before," said the study's lead author, Jessica Jimenez, an M.D./Ph.D. student at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.
The discovery of the anxiety cells in mice restored our hope to find treatments for anxiety disorder.
"We're looking to see if these cells are different molecularly from other neurons," Hen said. "If there's a specific receptor on the cells that distinguishes them from their neighbors, it may be possible to produce a new drug to reduce anxiety."
The discovery of anxiety cells is a "tremendous progress" for all neuroscientists. It will help them to understand how anxiety works in the brain, Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
Gordon, who helped to fund the research, further said, "If we can learn enough, we can develop the tools to turn on and off the key players that regulate anxiety in people."