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Role of the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and Transcendental Meditation in anxiety disorders
by Global Good News staff writer

Global Good News    Translate This Article
9 October 2012

Norman Rosenthal, MD, world-renowned psychiatrist, researcher, and author, spoke during a webinar about the role of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex in anxiety disorders and how Transcendental Meditation can often provide relief.

Dr Rosenthal was previously a senior researcher for 20 years at the National Institute of Mental Health (US), and it was there that he achieved renown by leading the team that first identified Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy to treat it. He was awarded the prestigious Anna Monika Foundation Prize for his contribution to research in treating depression.

Anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The amygdala and prefrontal cortex are areas of the brain. When explaining what role they play in these disorders, Dr Rosenthal first explained what their normal functioning looks like.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher thinking, for considering the future and making predictions, for inhibiting inappropriate behaviour and initiating appropriate behaviour, and for impulse control and delaying gratification.

Said Dr Rosenthal, 'The prefrontal cortex, when it's functioning well, is making executive decisions based on feedback it's getting from other brain centres.' This is one reason the prefrontal cortex is often described as the 'CEO' of the brain.

The amygdala is one such brain centre sending feedback to the prefrontal cortex. 'It is a quick-moving alarm system,' explained Dr Rosenthal.

When it is functioning normally, it tells the prefrontal cortex when to be aware or alert and it plays a very important role in survival.

Dr Rosenthal elaborated: 'If you are walking down a path and a snake comes your way, you're going to jump back even before you're really aware the snake is there. That's the amygdala, saving you. That's the amygdala having evolved over millions of years so that those people that jumped away from the snake, those were the ones that passed on their genes.'

But if the amygdala is not functioning normally, it might send constant false alarm signals to the prefrontal cortex, thus overwhelming that crucial centre of the brain.

As described in Science Daily: 'Conditions such as anxiety, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias are suspected of being linked to abnormal functioning of the amygdala.'

But effective stress relieving techniques, such as Transcendental Meditation, have been found to improve the functioning of the amygdala and provide relief from such conditions.

Copyright © 2013 Global Good News Service

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