Anxiety is driving sufferers around the (left-hand) bend, according to a new British study. Study leader Mario Weick, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Kent, found that feeling anxious makes people veer to the left because the right-hand side of the brain is so active.
The researchers asked blindfolded participants, who had previously answered questions related to their mental state, to walk across to a previously seen target. The results, published in the journal Cognition, showed that walking trajectories were more biased to the left for people prone to experiencing anxiety and inhibition.
“The distribution of brain areas that are specialized for spatial tasks is favored towards the right side of the brain, and this can create a steer to the left,” Weick said. “Our findings suggest that the right side of the brain is also specialized for anxiety and inhibition.”
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After further investigation, this study could be of relevance for people suffering from problems with spatial awareness associated with damage to one side of the brain. Those suffering from right-sided neglect may also benefit from training to reduce anxiety, states the research.
“Taking into account the link between emotions, motivation and spatial attention, it could also lead to optimizations in the design of human-machine interfaces,” Weick concluded. “Immersive Virtual Reality will bring the study of motivation, neurobiology, and spatial cognition to the next level.”