Friday, April 14, 2017

More anxiety from smaller brains?

Study links brain structure, anxiety and negative bias in healthy adults


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Healthy college students who have a relatively small inferior frontal cortex - a brain region behind the temples that helps regulate thoughts and emotions - are more likely than others to suffer from anxiety, a new study finds. They also tend to view neutral or even positive events in a negative light, researchers report.
The researchers evaluated 62 students, collecting brain structural data from neuroimaging scans and using standard questionnaires to determine their level of anxiety and predilection for negative bias.
Previous studies of people diagnosed with anxiety have found similar correlations between the size of the IFC and anxiety and negative bias, said U. of I. professor of psychology Sanda Dolcos, who led the study with graduate student Yifan Hu. But the new findings, reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, are the first to see these same dynamics in healthy adults, the researchers said."You would expect these brain changes more in clinical populations where anxiety is very serious, but we are seeing differences even in the brains of healthy young adults," Dolcos said.
The study also found that the relationship between the size of the IFC and a student's negative bias was mediated by their level of anxiety.
"People who have smaller volumes have higher levels of anxiety; people who have larger IFCs tend to have lower levels of anxiety," Dolcos said. And higher anxiety is associated with more negative bias, she said. "How we see this is that the higher volume of the IFC confers resilience."
"We found that larger IFC volume is protecting against negative bias through lower levels of trait anxiety," Hu said.
According to the American College Health Association, anxiety is rampant on college campuses, where nearly 60 percent of students report at least one troubling bout of anxious worry every year.
"There is a very high level of anxiety in the student population, and this is affecting their life, their academic performance, everything," Dolcos said. "We are interested in identifying what is going on and preventing them from moving to the next level and developing clinical anxiety."
Anxiety can interfere with many dimensions of life, causing a person to be on high alert for potential problems even under the best of circumstances, Hu said. Negative bias also can interfere with a person's commitment to activities that might further their life goals, she said.
Understanding the interrelatedness of brain structure, function and personality traits such as anxiety and their behavioral effects such as negative bias will help scientists develop interventions to target specific brain regions in healthy populations, Hu said.
"We hope to be able to train the brain to function better," she said. "That way, we might prevent these at-risk people from moving on to more severe anxiety."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fly or stay put?

Trying to just let it be and trust the process.

My plan was to take a plane to South Carolina this week to visit with family. But when I got pregnant, I decided not to travel. Tackling a plane ride is a challenge--one I believe I am ready to face. But life had other plans.

My family went, and I miss them. And I know it's for the better not to add the stress of trying to overcome that fear, but I feel sad for not going. Did I cop out? Was I really ready to fly after 15+ years of avoiding it at all costs?

I may never know. I'm working on overcoming another fear now....hospitals and childbirth. Never thought that one would be on my slate. But I've gotta trust. Planes will always be there. Right now, I'm just trying to keep the faith that I'm right where I am supposed to be.

In other news, this kicking baby is an amazing blessing and I'm grateful for the chance to feel life inside of me. Fascinating.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Curveballs and cravings.

I haven't forgotten about this blog, I was just going through a lot. We found out a few months ago that I am pregnant. It's been hard because I never wanted to be, plus this forces me to face a lot of fears. But it's also wonderful. I've chosen to find the blessing in it, and I am just trusting God that I am where I should be. I know I am.

This is the biggest curveball life ever threw at me though. They can really derail you, cause you to question everything or want to give up entirely. But I think the power is in seeing the good. Because of my faith in God, I've been able to do that, and I am so grateful to Him!

Have you had a big curveball thrown your way in life? What did you do to cope?

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Sorry I haven't written. Not sure if anyone is out there, but I am thinking of you all. Dealing with some internal struggles now and trying to take care of myself.
That's why it's like crickets up in here.

Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cold, dreary, dull.

Some days, I feel like I've taken a gagillion steps back. I guess I feel liek that today because of the weather. Lots going on. This sadness is something that I know too well, so when I start feeling it, I begin to panic inside.

I'm trying to put on the toolbelt, figure out what will work to help me feel better. I'm just not sure what the heck that is, or really if anything can help.

I swear, it's the time of year. Anniversaries. End-of-the-year "where am I" inventory. Plus, I am allergic to cold and hubs and I are headed to a Patriots game this weekend--normally, I am practically peeing in my pants. But I fear feeling trapped in the cold. That's odd, eh? I don't want to be cold. Cold makes me feel so depressed. I wonder WHY.

Well, think, Kristen. It makes me feel out of control and trapped--hello, the basis of all anxiety. So I guess in some DSM-5 way, it makes sense.

I also think maybe it's something to do with associating negative things with cold. Not just my hives. Deaths. Winter. I dunno. Does anyone feel good when you see everything gray and dying outside? Then this Christmas thing...trying to make me happy. Because really, I love Christmas and I celebrate the true meaning. But it's just SO HARD at the same time.

I am not doing cards this year, I thought that may cut out some stress. But at the same time, I feel disconnected from the people I love without that card...should I do them?

I don't know why it hits me so hard. I'm just trying to remember that it will pass. That I am okay. That things will look up.

Warm holiday hugs to all--especially if any of this rant resonates with you.

Monday, November 14, 2016

So far.

I'm at my dermatologist's other's in the same building that I could hardly walk into 14 years ago.

Sometimes progress takes time. Just keep going forward.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall for fall.

Been going through a bout of seasonal affective disorder...the clocks just changed last night but I've been feeling it. The weather is cooler and for some reason I just want to curl up and do nothing but feel bad when I do that. I've got myself in one of my damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don't modes. 

Yesterday though, I got on the road to visit a friends and the fall colors were lovely. Yes, it was cool but it was beautiful. I had to remind myself that when things aren't so great, there is still beauty there. I have to remember to practice gratitude more.

Plus, having a cute Jeep is great for that. And with country music and open road, it was kind of nice. It's fun to like driving again (for the most part) after dreading it for soo many years. More good stuff there, too. Just gotta remind myself of it:)

How are you handling the shift in seasons? Does it get to you?