HealthDay News — Individuals who have difficulty coping with the uncertainty of the future may have an unusually large striatum, according to research published online in Emotion.

The small study involved 56 mentally healthy students who underwent magnetic resonance imaging of their brains. The participants also completed a survey that assessed their ability to cope with the uncertainty of challenges or negative events in the future.

After comparing the surveys and the brain images, the researchers found that the size of the striatum was strongly linked to intolerance for uncertainty. The study authors concluded that the participants with an unusually large striatum — a region that is primarily involved in motor function — may struggle with worries about what the future holds.

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“Uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threats are central to understanding the generation of anxiety and anxiety disorders,” study author Justin Kim, of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said in a news release from the American Psychological Association. “Our research suggests a relationship between an individual’s ability to deal with this uncertainty and the volume of gray matter within a specific area of the brain.”

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Kim MJ, Shin J, Taylor JM, Mattek, et al. Intolerance of Uncertainty Predicts Increased Striatal Volume [published online May 18, 2017]. Emotion. doi: 10.1037/emo0000331.