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New therapy for anxiety disorders possible
Anxiety disorders are primarily treated with benzodiazepines. Wulf Haubensack has now found the networks of neurons in which the substances work. This gives hope for new effective drugs for anxiety disorders.
How do benzodiazepines work?
Anxiety disorders are treated with benzodiazepines, among other things. These psychotropic drugs, or BZDs for short, have proven successful over the past 50 years. Doctors know well how they work at the level of cells and molecules. However, little is known about their interactions with circuits in the brain.
Brain research has exploded in recent decades. Scientists are learning more and more about neural circuits and the areas of the brain in which emotions such as fear arise.
The team around Dr. Wulf Haubensak and Prof. Dr. Andreas Hess now interdisciplinarily linked genetics and knowledge of neural circuits and thus mapped the interaction in the brain that BZDs trigger.
What did the researchers find?
The result was: BZDs slow down the forwarding of aversive signals through the tonsil core. The scientists now marked the circuits that were affected by this interference from the BZDs.
A hot spot in the brain
Haubensak says that fear arises from the interaction of various brain circuits, and here the scientists have recognized a hot spot that is essential for the anxiolytic cure.
New knowledge applied
These results would not have been possible a few years ago, because, according to the researcher: To find the hot spot, knowledge of the connections between the brain neurons was required and this would have to be combined with methods of genetics. These methods and information have only recently emerged. Previously, the researchers had examined mice for anxiety-solving questions, but now they compare these results to human brain scans and find that the same findings worked for people.
Magnetic resonance imaging and other imaging techniques are the key to studying neurobiological functions in the brain, the researchers say.
What are the results for anxiety therapy?
Science now knows the networks of neurons that have the effect of BZDs. This allows them to be controlled in a targeted manner. New effective drugs would be possible without the side effects of those that exist today.