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Anxiety and depression are widespread disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 18 percent of U.S. adults have experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year, and about 7 percent have had a major depressive episode. The average age of onset for anxiety disorders is 11.

Kids with extremely anxious temperaments are at a 50 percent risk of developing a mental disorder later in life, Kalin told Live Science. He and his colleagues are trying to figure out the brain basis of this temperament, in hopes of developing early interventions that can nudge kids away from anxiety and depression.

The researchers used PET scanning to image the brains of 592 young rhesus monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. These monkeys are raised in pairs at the center and vary in their levels of anxiety, Kalin said.

During the scanning, a stranger entered the room and did not make eye contact with the monkey. This is a mildly stressful scenario for the monkeys, enabling the researchers to watch what happens in the animals' brains during an anxiety-inducing encounter.

(Animal rights activists and others have criticized and even tried to stop Kalin's work with rhesus monkeys, though at least one petition against his research has erroneously suggested that Kalin subjected the monkeys to extreme stress and solitary confinement, according to the University of Wisconsin?Madison's response to the petition.)

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