Trouble remembering where you left your keys could trigger anxiety for which there are plenty of medicines, but new research has found some might worsen your cognitive abilities.
Using a unique genetic model developed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, scientists have gained new understanding of how some anti-anxiety medications put undue pressure on the brain to act out in weird ways.
Synapses are the connection points by which the brain's nerve cells form a functioning network, supporting everything from regulation of organs to higher-level thinking.
Surrounding these synapses are microglia cells, which form part of the brain's local, innate immune system and are involved in brain structures changing.
The team of scientists discovered some anti-anxiety drugs exert unexpected "off-target" effects on microglia cells, causing them to behave differently.
The organisation's Richard Banati said the research has significant implications for dementia patients experiencing anxiety and could help pave the way for better treatments.
"The study highlights a very important problem, as often patients with cognitive loss experience high levels of anxiety and are treated with some of these drugs," he said.
"The finding is important because it may help us to understand how the progression of dementia occurs or is potentially accelerated by some of the classical anti-anxiety drugs.
"And practically, it is useful because it will provide a foundation for further research into the development of anti-anxiety drugs which do not have these long-term, undesirable effects."
Professor Banati said the study offers new insights into the close relationship of synapses with surrounding cells and how this may affect brain functions in a wider range of brain diseases.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.