Genetic Basis of Anxiety

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Both human and animal studies have provided evidence for a genetic influence in the etiology of anxiety. A growing number of genetically altered mice have been produced in an effort to identify specific genes conferring enhanced or reduced risk for anxiety disorders. A meta-analysis of family studies, as well as twin studies and prospective studies in children of anxious parents, have demonstrated a significant familial aggregation for all anxiety disorders. From these studies, the range of reported genetic effect has been 25-65%. It has also been postulated that anxiety disorders may represent a complex genetic trait in which genetic risk factors are probabilistic rather than deterministic in nature.21 The development of knockout and transgenic mice has facilitated investigations into the contribution of several classes of neurotransmitters/receptors to anxiety.

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