MSU study finds anxiety makes some women's brains literally work harder

Jun 5, 2012

A new Michigan State University study finds the brains of “anxious” womens work much harder, but no better than others.    The study’s authors say their findings could help diagnose and treat women with “anxiety disorders."

MSU researchers tested the brain activity of college students as they performed a relatively simple task.   The researchers say they noticed a significant spike in brain activity in women who say they deal with anxiety or worry a great deal. The spikes coincided with when those women made mistakes.

Researchers say no similar spike occurred in women who did not report high anxiety.   The study found men who reported a high degree of anxiety or worry did not show a similar either. 

Jason Moser is the lead author of the study. He says spikes in brain activity in other people help them overcome their mistakes.

“What we found was, even though the anxious women’s brains were pumping out this bigger error response, their performance wasn’t getting any better,” says Moser.

Moser says the research could help identify and treat women with obsessive compulsive disorder or other generalized anxiety disorders.

The MSU study appears in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.