Researchers have discovered the part of the brain responsible for mental anguish, the nervousness that you get from trying to decide between playing it safe or taking risks to gain excitement.
If you've ever worried about leaving the safety of one job for the excitement of another, or contemplated an extramarital affair, chances are you experienced conflict anxiety--the nervousness that occurs when we have to choose between competing impulses. Now, researchers working with mice believe they have identified the part of the brain responsible for this mental anguish. The discovery may aid the search for better drugs for anxiety and other emotional disorders.
Researchers modified mice by removing a gene responsible for the conflict anxiety, then put them through a bunch of tests "designed to induce a conflict between safety and novelty-seeking behavior."
Compared to control mice, the knockout animals spent significantly more time engaged in novelty-seeking behavior.
The researchers then added the gene back, but only in the cerebral cortex and the mice became just as anxious as the normal mice. It's our cerebral cortex that makes us so miserable when we cannot decide.