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Psychiatry Res. 2005 Dec 30;140(3):259-69. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

Effect of worry on regional cerebral blood flow in nonanxious subjects.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Room 117, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Several studies suggest that cognitive tasks attenuate activation of the limbic system by emotional stimuli. We investigated the possibility that worry would similarly inhibit the limbic system by examining its effects on regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF). Ten nonanxious volunteers underwent four scans within one session, using positron emission tomography (PET) with H(2)(15)O as tracer. The first two scans recorded emotionally neutral thinking induced after listening to tapes describing neutral statements. Preceding the third and fourth scans, subjects listened to the self-recorded tape describing their individual worries, were instructed to continue to worry, and were scanned 5 min later. Subjects rated themselves as more anxious during the worry scans but showed no significant heart interbeat or skin conductance changes. During worry, rCBF increases were found bilaterally in the medial fronto-orbital gyri and the right thalamus; rCBF decreases were found bilaterally in the hippocampi and amygdalae, in the right insula, the left and right inferior, middle and superior temporal gyri and the occipito-temporal gyri, the right inferior occipital gyrus and the left supramarginal gyrus. Activity of the left orbito-frontal gyrus was negatively correlated with activity of the amygdalae. The results support the hypothesis that worry-induced prefrontal activity suppresses affect-related subcortical regions.

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