MRI scans are increasingly allowing researchers to look into the links between what, physically, goes on in people's brains and how they respond to stimuli and mental-health problems. Researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health used MRI technology to investigate social phobia. Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder in the general population and is marked by a person fearing and avoiding social situations and fearing negative judgements by others. Those with the disorder run a greater risk of depression, drug and alcohol problems and suicide attempts. The researchers found that people with social phobia experienced greater blood flow in their amygdala and prefrontal cortex - areas of the brain linked to awareness of oneself, fear, emotion and stress - when they read negative comments about themselves. However, when they read negative comments about others, or neutral or positive comments about themselves or others, there was no change in blood flow in these parts of the brain.
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