A new study shows what happens in the brain when stress triggers anxiety.
The closely linked emotions of stress and anxiety are both generated in the limbic system of the brain. The study, conducted with rats, reports that stress contributes to a state of anxiety by prompting the production of a natural cannabinoid that disrupts the regulation of the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
“Our findings show how stress can cause anxiety in part by stress hormones acting on the brain to stimulate the production of the brain’s cannabis. The brain makes its own endogenous cannabinoid molecules, similar to THC in marijuana, in response to stress hormones,” says senior author Jeffrey Tasker, professor of cell and molecular biology at Tulane University and a member of the new Tulane Brain Institute.