The brains of highly anxious people process social threats differently than those who are more laid back, a new study finds.
Anxious people process social threats with the part of the brain responsible for taking action.
This could indicate that anxiety does not lead to ‘oversensitivity’ or paralysis.
Rather, it could help anxious people to take action sooner.
Naturally, in most people the brain devotes more processing to social threats than it does to benign occurrences, the research confirmed.
Social threats are detected by the brain in just 200 milliseconds.
Less anxious people use areas of the brain involved in face recognition.
The most threatening facial expressions, the researchers found, were an angry face making direct eye contact.
Dr Marwa El Zein, the study’s first author, said:
“In a crowd, you will be most sensitive to an angry face looking towards you, and will be less alert to an angry person looking somewhere else.
In contrast to previous work, our findings demonstrate that the brain devotes more processing resources to negative emotions that signal threat, rather than to any display of negative emotion.”
The study was published in the journal eLife (El Zein et al., 2015).
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