Anxiety Linked to Smarts in Brain Study

Tendency to worry may have evolved along with intelligence in humans, researchers say

HealthDay SHARE
FE_PR_091013health.psychmyths.jpg

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.

[Read: Brain Tumor Vaccine Shows Promise in Early Trial.]

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.

[Read: Brain Surgery Might Ease Tough-to-Treat OCD.]

"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.

Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.