Those with more reactive amygdalae at the start of the study were found to experience more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression in response to later stressful life events. However, an overactive amygdala alone was not enough to predict anxiety and depression. These symptoms had to first be triggered by a stressful life event.
These findings suggest that identifying “biomarkers” — measurable indications of the brain’s biological state — that may be able to predict later psychiatric conditions could be a promising line of research, opening up new possibilities for diagnosis and early intervention for patients with anxiety and depression.
“With continued research leading to the identification of additional biomarkers, including genes, our long-term goal is to inform efforts to prevent the experience of disabling levels of mental illness based on an individual’s specific form of risk,” Swartz said.