Anxiety Linked to Smarts in Brain Study

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence as an important survival trait in humans, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers looked at 26 people with generalized anxiety disorder and compared them to a group of 18 healthy volunteers without the disorder. The investigators found that both worry and high intelligence were associated with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the brain's white matter.

This suggests that worry may have co-evolved with intelligence, said Dr. Jeremy Coplan, a professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City.

"While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," Coplan said in a center news release.

"In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species," he added.

The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience.

More information

The U.S. National Mental Health Institute has more about generalized anxiety disorder.

SOURCE: State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, news release, April 12, 2012

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