Persistent anxiety is one of the most common and distressing symptoms compromising mental health. Most of the research on the neurobiology of anxiety has focused on the generation of increased anxiety, i.e., the processes that “turn on” anxiety.

But what if the problem lay with the “off switch” instead? In other words, the dysfunction could exist in the ability to diminish anxiety once it has begun.

A new report in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison suggests that deficits in one of the brain’s off switches for anxiety, neuropeptide Y receptors, are decreased in association with anxious temperament.

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