Does Anxiety Exist to Protect Us Against Potential Threats?

Recent research published online in the journal Chemosensory Perception suggests that anxious men have a heightened sense of smell, presumably to detect predators or disease-carriers.

The study entitled Enhanced Olfactory Sensory Perception of Threat in Anxiety: An Event-Related fMRI Study tested 14 mens’ perception of odors, including bad ones.  In some trials, the men were in an MRI scanner, and odors were faint.

According to Scientific American, participants were simply asked if they could detect a scent, yes or no.  In addition, the subjects were also tested for anxiety: their breathing and skin electrical conductivity were measured, as in a lie detector.

The results?  More anxious men were significantly better at detecting lower concentrations of scents, particularly nasty ones. This suggests that anxiety evolved as an evolutionary trait to protect humans from predators.

What do you think about the results of this study? Do you think the findings make logical sense?

You can listen to the complete podcast from Scientific American here.


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