Anxiety Could Be an Inherited Condition, and Scientists Think They Know Why

iStock
iStock

If you have an anxiety disorder, you might be able to blame your parents for it. A new study in The Journal of Neuroscience reveals that some monkeys may pass a tendency toward anxiety down from generation to generation, and it might work the same way in humans, Science Alert reports.

It's known that anxiety can run in families, but how the heritability of anxiety works, and which areas of the brain are involved, is more mysterious. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the brain activity of 378 young rhesus macaques who were placed in an anxiety-inducing situation. For the study, a person stood in their cage and avoided eye contact with the monkeys for 30 minutes, which likely made the monkeys wonder whether their visitor was a potential threat. It’s the same approach often used in psychology labs to study anxiety in children, the study’s co-author tells Discover.

After analyzing the results of the stress test, scientists discovered increased activity in two regions of the amygdala—the part of the brain that processes fear and other emotions—in monkeys that had outwardly expressed the most anxiety. Using information about the monkeys’ lineage dating back eight generations, scientists determined that the ancestors of the high-anxiety monkeys had elicited a similar brain response. In other words, their anxiety may have been inherited. Genetics aren't fully to blame for anxiety, however, because environmental factors are often at play.

Because of the similarities between monkeys and humans, the results could lend insight into treatments for children with extreme anxious temperament (AT), which often develops into an anxiety disorder later in life. "Looking first at the monkeys has provided us with clues about which systems to focus on in our studies of at-risk young children," senior author Ned Kalin said in a statement.

Studies like this may help lay the groundwork for addressing the underlying cause of anxiety, rather than just treating the symptoms.

[h/t Science Alert]

Why Is Pee Yellow?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Your body is kind of like a house. You bring things into your body by eating, drinking, and breathing. But just like the things we bring home to real houses, we don’t need every part of what we take in. So there are leftovers, or garbage. And if you let garbage sit around in your house or your body for too long, it gets gross and can make you sick. Your body takes out the garbage by peeing and pooping. These two things are part of your body’s excretory system (ECKS-krih-tore-eee SISS-tem), which is just a fancy way of saying “trash removal.” If your body is healthy, when you look in the toilet you should see brown poop and yellow pee.

Clear, light yellow pee is a sign that your excretory system and the rest of your body are working right. If your pee, or urine (YER-inn), is not see-through, that might mean you are sick. Dark yellow urine usually means that you aren’t drinking enough water. On the other hand, really pale or colorless pee can mean you might be drinking too much water! 

Your blood is filtered through two small organs called kidneys (KID-knees). Remember the garbage we talked about earlier? The chemicals called toxins (TOCK-sins) are like garbage in your blood. Your kidneys act like a net, catching the toxins and other leftovers and turning them into pee.

One part of your blood is called hemoglobin (HEE-moh-gloh-bin). This is what makes your blood red. Hemoglobin goes through a lot of changes as it passes through your body. When it reaches your kidneys, it turns yellow thanks to a chemical called urobilin (yer-ah-BY-lin). Urobilin is kind of like food coloring. The more water you add, the lighter it will be. That's why, if you see dark yellow pee in the toilet, it's time to ask your mom or dad for a cup of water. 

To learn more about pee, check out this article from Kids Health. 

Flashing Status Symbols Won’t Impress New Friends—and May Even Backfire

iStock
iStock

Trying to keep up with the Joneses isn’t a very effective way of making friends. As The Outline reports, a recent study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that flashing status symbols makes people less likely to want to be your friend.

While some may feel like sporting a luxury watch or designer clothes will draw people toward them, it actually does the opposite, making you a less attractive potential friend, according to a trio of researchers from Michigan, Singapore, and Israel. Over the course of six different experiments, the researchers found that study participants tended to think that high-status markers like fancy cars would help them make new friends. The trend stayed true across both participants recruited using Amazon Mechanical Turk and upscale shoppers stopped for a survey in a high-income suburb.

People thought that showing up to an outdoor wedding in a luxury car or going out to a downtown bar wearing a fancy brand-name watch would lead people to be more attracted to them as potential friends, compared to someone driving a basic car or wearing a generic watch. Yet participants also rated themselves as being more willing to befriend someone with generic clothes and cars than someone who flashed designer goods.

The paradox makes a little more sense if you go back to the idea of “keeping up” with our neighbors. People want to look high status in comparison to others. They don’t want to hang out with people who are flashing around luxury goods—they want to be the flashier ones.

[h/t The Outline]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios