Anxiety May Increase the Heart Rate. Nevertheless, whether the reverse is correct is still unknown.
Scientists from Stanford University have recently evaluated the effects of increased heart rate on mice behaviors.
Published in Nature, the results show that a faster heart rate in mice may lead to anxious behaviors.
In this project, the group of authors used a technique called optogenetics, which bioengineers muscle cells in mice’s hearts to make them prone to light. Then, the mice were equipped with small vests that release red light to control their heartbeat.
The scientists adjust the heartbeat from 660 to 900 beats per minute (bpm) for 600 ms every 1500 ms.
When mice were in a familiar environment, these changes did not affect their pain perception or behavior. Nevertheless, when they were in a maze, a faster heart rate induced anxiety.
To learn more about the link between the brain and heart in causing anxiety, the scientists evaluated the mice’s brain activity.
They discovered that a brain area called the insula, which is responsible for bodily signals and emotion, was more active and caused anxiety when the heart rate was faster.
An explanation for the finding is that the brain responds to a faster heart rate, which may be seen as a danger, and that may lead to anxiety. In rodents, this does not occur until they were in a stressful circumstance. The combination of a faster heart rate and this stress is the main cause of anxiety.
However, the study still has some limitations. The biggest problem is that it was done on mice instead of humans. In general, human physiology and mouse physiology are significantly different. For instance, mice’s hearts may beat 10 times as quickly as humans.
Also, the measurement of anxiety in mice would not show anxiety in humans because the scientists may not know how these animals were actually feeling.
Doctors usually told their patients that anxiety may happen when they have a faster heart rate and the findings indicate a direct link between them. This would help patients have a better understanding of anxiety.
A major implication of the study is that we would interrupt the physiological states linked to anxiety to develop proper treatments. In fact, certain treatments have already been formed with this approach