In the study, 56 students had MRI scans taken of their brains after filling out a survey designed to measure their ability to tolerate the uncertainty of future negative events.
Professor Justin Kim, of Dartmouth College, said: “Uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threats are central to understanding the generation of anxiety and anxiety disorders.
“Our research suggests a relationship between an individual’s ability to deal with this uncertainty and the volume of gray matter within a specific area of the brain.
People who had difficulty tolerating an uncertain future had a relatively enlarged striatum
Previous studies focusing specifically on patients with obsessive compulsive disorder and general anxiety disorder have also found increased gray matter volumes in the striatum, but this is the first time it has been found in association with intolerance of uncertainty in the absence of a confirmed diagnosis, according to professor Kim.
“Having a relatively enlarged volume of the striatum may be associated with how intolerant you are when facing an uncertain future, but it does not mean you have OCD or generalised anxiety disorder.
Scientist have discovered that people who’re anxious may have unusually large striatum
“Given that an important component of intolerance of uncertainty is a desire for predictability, our findings offer a biological marker related to our need for predictability.”
While the striatum has been primarily known for its role in motor function, animal studies have also suggested that it plays a role in how we predict whether or not we will receive a reward for a particular behaviour while learning new tasks, according to Prof Kim.
In the study 56 students had MRI scans of their brains and filled out a survey