Date: May 21, 2018
“People who struggle with the ambiguity of the future tend to have a larger striatum, according to new neuroimaging research published in the journal Emotion.
The study found people who had difficulty tolerating an uncertain future had a greater volume of gray matter within the striatum, a brain structure that plays an important role in decisions, movements, and motivations.
“Anxiety (and its co-conspirator ‘worry’) is an active, energy consuming process,” the study’s lead author, M. Justin Kim of Dartmouth College, told PsyPost. “You haven’t given up – you are still fighting back, trying to anticipate what might happen tomorrow. The problem of course is that there are an infinite number of ‘what if…’ scenarios you can come up with. For some individuals, the uncertainty of what ‘might happen’ tomorrow, is actually worse than the negative event itself actually happening. These individuals are intolerant of uncertainty.”
“We were interested in how uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threat contribute to the generation of anxiety and how they might be represented in our brain. In the psychology literature, how we deal with an uncertain future can be quantified as intolerance of uncertainty (IU). As is the case with any other personality characteristic, we all have varying degrees of IU. For example, individuals high in IU display difficulty accepting the possibility of potential negative events in the future. Importantly, psychiatric disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), whose symptoms are marked with worrying/obsessing, are commonly associated elevated IU.”