Localized gray matter volume abnormalities in generalized anxiety disorder

Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Graz, Universitätsplatz 2/III, 8010, Graz, Austria, .
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.53). 06/2011; 261(4):303-7. DOI: 10.1007/s00406-010-0147-5
Source: PubMed


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and persistent worrying. Neural substrates of this disorder are insufficiently understood, which relates to functional as well as to structural brain abnormalities. Especially, findings on the neuroanatomy of GAD have been inconsistent and were predominantly derived from pediatric samples. Therefore, we studied adult patients. Thirty-one women (16 patients with GAD and 15 healthy control participants) underwent structural MRI scanning. Gray matter volumes for specific brain regions involved in worrying, anticipatory anxiety, and emotion regulation were analyzed by means of voxel-based morphometry. Relative to controls, patients with GAD had larger volumes of the amygdala and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC). Moreover, patients' self-reports on symptom severity were positively correlated with volumes of the DMPFC and the anterior cingulate cortex. Patients with GAD show localized gray matter volume differences in brain regions associated with anticipatory anxiety and emotion regulation. This abnormality may represent either a predisposition for GAD or a consequence of disorder-specific behavior, such as chronic worrying. This issue should be addressed in future MRI studies.

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    • "In particular, Greenberg et al. (2013) showed an abnormal functional response of the ACC in patients with GAD during fear generalization tasks. Schienle et al. (2011) described a positive relationship between GM volume of this area and the self-reporting on the degree of worrying in a GAD group. Another study found an inverse correlation between thickness of the ACC and the severity of the social anxiety symptoms in patients with SAD (Frick et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Hamilton scale for anxiety (HARS) are two of the most important scales employed in clinical and psychological realms for the evaluation of anxiety. Although the reliability and sensibility of these scales are widely demonstrated there is an open debate on what exactly their scores reflect. Neuroimaging provides the potential to validate the quality and reliability of clinical scales through the identification of specific biomarkers. For this reason, we evaluated the neural correlates of these two scales in a large cohort of healthy individuals using structural neuroimaging methods.Case reportNeuroimaging analysis included thickness/volume estimation of cortical and subcortical limbic structures, which were regressed on anxiety inventory scores with age and gender used for assessing discriminant validity. A total of 121 healthy subjects were evaluated. Despite the two anxiety scales, at a behavioral level, displaying significant correlations among them (HARS with STAI-state (r = 0.24; P = 0.006) and HARS with STAI-trait (r = 0.42; P < 0.001)), multivariate neuroimaging analyses demonstrated that anatomical variability in the anterior cingulate cortex was the best predictor of the HARS scores (all β's ≥ 0.31 and P's ≤ 0.01), whereas STAI-related measures did not show any significant relationship with regions of limbic circuits, but their scores were predicted by gender (all β's ≥ 0.23 and P's ≤ 0.02).Conclusion Although the purpose of HARS and STAI is to quantify the degree and characteristics of anxiety-like behaviors, our neuroimaging data indicated that these scales are neurobiologically different, confirming that their scores might reflect different aspects of anxiety: the HARS is more related to subclinical expression of anxiety disorders, whereas the STAI captures sub-dimensions of personality linked to anxiety.
    Brain and Behavior 07/2014; 4(4). DOI:10.1002/brb3.232 · 2.24 Impact Factor
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    • "One study [14] found that adult GAD patients exhibited increased activation to angry expressions in the lateral frontal cortex, whereas another study [22] suggested that adult GAD patients showed decreased activation to emotional conflict in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex compared with healthy controls. The limited structural neuroimaging studies have shown a sub-threshold decrease of gray matter volume in bilateral ventrolateral cortex in pediatric anxiety patients [18], and a larger volume of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex in adult GAD patients [15]. In addition, a functional connectivity study [22] has revealed the aberrant functional connection between amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, suggesting neural correlates for emotion regulation deficits in adults with GAD. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous neuroimaging studies have suggested an abnormal neural circuitry of emotion regulation including the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in both adult and adolescent generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) patients. Aberrant integrity of white matter in this neural circuitry has been verified in adult GAD patients. White matter abnormalities in adolescent GAD patients have not been detected. Twenty-five adolescents with GAD and 24 healthy controls underwent a diffusion tensor imaging scan. Fractional anisotropy (FA) was compared between groups with a voxel-wise Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) analysis method. Compared with healthy controls, adolescents with GAD showed significantly reduced FA in bilateral uncinate fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, and corona radiata. The findings in the present study suggest a neural basis of emotion dysregulation in adolescent GAD patients.
    BMC Psychiatry 02/2014; 14(1):41. DOI:10.1186/1471-244X-14-41 · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    • "Several studies on GAD have reported alterations of gray matter volumes in the amygdala. Two studies in adult GAD patients exhibited larger amygdala [14], [15], whereas the other two studies in adolescent GAD patients yield inconsistent results in the amygdala [12], [13]. Three of these studies investigated GAD patients with co-morbid diagnosis [12], [13], [14], while GAD patients in this study had no co-morbidity disorders. "
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    ABSTRACT: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that usually begins in adolescence. Childhood maltreatment is highly prevalent and increases the possibility for developing a variety of mental disorders including anxiety disorders. An earlier age at onset of GAD is significantly related to maltreatment in childhood. Exploring the underpinnings of the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adolescent onset GAD would be helpful in identifying the potential risk markers of this condition. Twenty-six adolescents with GAD and 25 healthy controls participated in this study. A childhood trauma questionnaire (CTQ) was introduced to assess childhood maltreatment. All subjects underwent high-resolution structural magnetic resonance scans. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to investigate gray matter alterations. Significantly larger gray matter volumes of the right putamen were observed in GAD patients compared to healthy controls. In addition, a significant diagnosis-by-maltreatment interaction effect for the left thalamic gray matter volume was revealed, as shown by larger volumes of the left thalamic gray matter in GAD patients with childhood maltreatment compared with GAD patients without childhood maltreatment as well as with healthy controls with/without childhood maltreatment. A significant positive association between childhood maltreatment and left thalamic gray matter volume was only seen in GAD patients. These findings revealed an increased volume in the subcortical regions in adolescent GAD, and the alterations in the left thalamus might be involved in the association between childhood maltreatment and the occurrence of GAD.
    PLoS ONE 08/2013; 8(8):e71898. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0071898 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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