Is Our Level of Anxiety Due to Evolution?

Author Shirley Amy
January 13, 2020

Feeling anxious affects us at out very core, and can come about in all kinds of ways, often when we least expect it. And unlike stress, which comes and goes along with the particular stressor — financial woes, relationships traumas, illness etc., anxiety is another kettle of fish which can prevail regardless of whether the cause is evident or not.


50 Shades of  Grey

Anxiousness can make us feel as though our personal world is falling down around us, and that everything is far worse than it really is. — Often to the point that our resolve is so weak, we are unable to confront our fears. Studies show that any times, sufferers feel that there is some type of mental health issue at the crux of their dilemma. However, it is crucial for all of us to be mindful of the fact that feeling anxious is normal, and down to a set of biological functions which have been with us humans, ever since we were living in caves.

The Evolutionary Link

Scientists from Tohoku University have been researching the link between anxiety and evolution. They started by looking at various neurochemicals including dopamine and serotonin, which have key roles in our brain’s emotional and cognitive functions. And then turned to one of our genes named VMAT1, which works to transport neurotransmitters, and regulate neuronal signaling. 

When they reconstructed ancestral VMAT1 proteins, they were able to reveal the functional changes in neurotransmitter uptake of VMAT1 throughout the course of human evolution. Professor Masakado Kawata and Daiki Sato, a PhD candidate, who previously determined that VMAT1 had evolved throughout human lineage, noted: “Human bodies are made up of millions of cells. Each individual cell contains a specific set of instruction of codes that make up all of a living thing’s genetic material. These instructions are known as genomes.”

More on VMAT 1

This gene has two human-specific mutations. Former research has already indicated that people with these variants have a reduced uptake of neurotransmitters, and is linked with higher anxiety and/or depression. So if you are one of the many people who is unlucky enough to have it, whether you have had a genetic test or not, taking measures to calm your anxiety through positive lifestyle and holistic therapies, is surely a step in the right direction.

When deliberating on this genetic association with anxiety and/or depression in the human populus, interestingly, Kawata remarked that: “The results of our study reveal that our ancestors may have been able to withstand higher levels of anxiety or depression.” He then when on to say that the next

project involving mice as subjects, would comprise pinpointing the behavioral and neurological impact of the mutations, in order to ascertain the way in which our brain evolution has been impinged by the variants. This, the study authors noted: “would be the striking evidence that links evolution of our genome and brain.” The research team is hoping that their latest finding offers an important understanding into human’s diverse mental health traits, including psychiatric abnormalities.

Author Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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