Thumbnail Image

Consideration of neuroplasticity and anxiety

Watkins, Paeton

Anxiety is one of the most prevalent disorders that impact people in the world today, and is continuing to become even more common. While treatment options exist, their aim is to treat the symptoms, not to fix the underlying problem. And even so, many of these treatments result in negative side effects, or are inaccessible. For this literary review, a search for scholarly articles was conducted through EBSCO Host, PubMed, PsycInfo, and others. These searches were fielded using keywords related to the topic, such as “neuroplasticity,” “neural plasticity,” “brain plasticity,” “anxiety,” and other similar, synonymous terms. At this point, the general mechanisms of anxiety and its processing are known. Additionally, it has been consistently found and replicated that patients with anxiety, as well as other mental health disorders, show functional changes in the neurons, neuropathways, and neuroplasticity of their brains. Research utilizing drugs that target neuroplasticity as treatment is often combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and have had promising results. Neuroplasticity-focused treatment through new methods has also had promising results in trials with rodents. Some of this research has included methods which do not yet have enough of a clinical understanding for it to be ethical for human trials, such as psychedelic treatment. However, with further investigation and understanding, these treatments could eventually move on to human trials. Despite our immediate negative inclination towards methods such as the aforementioned, they hold promise. Perhaps those preconceived biases have prevented researchers from pursuing avenues of research that could bring about major discoveries. Moving forward, research on specific methods aimed at increasing neuroplasticity in humans could be extremely valuable, and lead to a medical breakthrough of the century, impacting millions of people worldwide.