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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Anxiety Center

The brain has various regions and centers which effect our moods and contribute both to our well-being and our suffering.  Some addicts 'medicate' themselves to deal with what are essentially organic problems.  Here, it seems that scientists have gotten more insight into the situation.

I'm reproducing the article below from the Daily Mail, which has good articles but muddles them up with a lot of soft-core celebri-porn (i.e. bikini shots of actors I don't know).

Scientists have found the brain's 'misery molecule' believed to be responsible for all of our feelings of stress and anxiety. 
Researchers believe that the protein - named CRF1 - could also be linked to depression. 
A team from Heptares Therapeutics, a medical company based in Hertfordshire, used one of the world's most powerful x-ray machines to study the brain's pituitary gland.
It has long been known that the gland controls stress, depression and anxiety by releasing stress chemicals, the Sunday Times reports.
Now, scientists have discovered the response is triggered by CRF1 - which is found in the outer membranes of pituitary cells.
Fiona Marshall, chief scientific officer at Heptares, told the paper: 'Stress related diseases such as depression and anxiety affect a quarter of adults each year, but what many people don't realise is that these conditions are controlled by proteins in the brain, one of which is CRF1.'
She added that now they have worked out the structure of it and how it works it could open up potential to design drugs to control it.
CRF1 sits in pituitary cells and detects the stress molecules detected by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain which produces hormones that control, body temperature, hunger and moods - among others.
When it picks one of these molecules up, it triggers the parent cell to release the hormones which lead to stress and anxiety, the paper reports.
Using the Diamond Light Source, based in Harwell, Oxfordshire, which produces powerful x-ray beams, researchers were able to study the protein's structure and pin point areas which could be targeted by new drugs.
Ms Marshall said they had identified a 'crevice' which would be an ideal area to aim a molecule which could be specially designed to block CRF1 - effectively disabling it.
She said the team now hope to use this research method to analyse molecules involved in type 2 diabetes - with the hope of one day developing a drug which can be taken orally as opposed to the injections which sufferers of the condition have to use.

Now, the one thing that I might add is that tampering with this region when it is functioning normally can lead to disaster.  What I mean is that if your anxiety is grounded in the reality of your situation, and you try to 'adjust' the normal chemical response to it, you will be throwing off the natural function of your brain.

Distress and anxiety are important components in normal human psychology.   Part of what these reactions do is help us from falling into sociopathy... the experience of anxiety linked to our perceptions of others.  If you enter the world of dampened anxiety, then things 'matter' less.  This will free you up to do a lot of things you normally would not do because they are too distressing.

However, for those battling with anxiety disorders and organic depression, my hope is that this discovery will lead to an alleviation of suffering.  Bill W. spent a lifetime looking for a cure for his own battle with depression.  Perhaps we are a step closer to accomplishing his dream and taking away one of the biggest contributors to the problem of addiction.

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