Researchers have discovered why it is important to stay clam before taking any big decision in life. Anxiety disrupts brain activity that supports decision-making, says a study.
Anxiety disengages a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is critical for flexible decision making, the findings showed. By monitoring the activity of neurons in the PFC while anxious rats had to make decisions about how to get a reward, the scientists made two observations.
First, anxiety leads to bad decisions when there are conflicting distractors present. Second, bad decisions under anxiety involve numbing of PFC neurons. The data indicates that anxiety has an exquisitely selective effect on neuronal activity that supports decision making, said lead author of the study Bita Moghaddam, professor at University of Pittsburgh in the US. The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
As with many people who suffer from anxiety but go through day-to-day life and make decisions, the anxious rats completed the decision-making task and, actually, did not do too badly. But they made far more mistakes when the correct choice involved ignoring distracting information.