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Study: Two brain systems regulate how we call for help

MADISON - The willingness to call out in distress to get help from others appears to be regulated by two brain systems with very different responsibilities, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"These findings have far-reaching implications because they help clarify how a balance of two important brain systems can influence an individual's behavior and emotional expression in times of need," says Ned Kalin, senior author on the study and chair of psychiatry at UW Medical School. "The findings suggest that how open an individual is willing to be in asking for help may depend more than we thought on how secure that individual feels at any given time in a supportive relationship."

The brain systems found to be involved were the amygdala, which is important in detecting and responding to threats, and the right prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in reaching goals and attaching to others.

The study will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition during the week of March 7-11.

In monkeys and humans, it's natural to seek help from supportive individuals during trying times. Indeed, calling for help can be crucial to survival, says Kalin, a psychiatrist who has studied fear and social attachment in monkeys for two decades in an attempt to better understand anxiety and depression in humans.

However, since a cry for help also signals vulnerability - and, in the animal world, may attract the attention of predators - safety may depend on being careful about when to call out for help. The UW researchers wanted to know what brain systems determine why one individual is very comfortable expressing a need for help while another is much more restrained.

The brain-imaging study involved 25 rhesus monkeys that were separated from their cage mates for 30 minutes and made "coo calls," which function to recruit others for social support. Researchers measured th
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Contact: Dian Land
dj.land@hosp.wisc.edu
608-263-9893
University of Wisconsin-Madison
7-Mar-2005


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