Memory deficits in children with and at risk for anxiety disorders.
ABSTRACT There are limited data on the neurocognitive correlates of childhood anxiety disorders. The objective of this study was to examine whether visual and verbal memory deficits of nonemotional stimuli are (1) a shared feature of three common childhood anxiety disorders (social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder) or whether these deficits are restricted to specific anxiety disorders, and (2) present in offspring who possess at least one of the following established risk factors for anxiety disorders, parental history of panic disorder (PD), or major depressive disorder (MDD). One hundred and sixty offspring, ages 9-20 years, were recruited from parents with lifetime diagnoses of PD, MDD, PD plus MDD, or neither illness. Different clinicians blindly administered semistructured diagnostic interviews to offspring and parents. Verbal and visual memory subtests of the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning were administered to offspring. The results showed that offspring with ongoing social phobia demonstrated reduced visual but not verbal memory scores compared to those without social phobia when controlling for offspring IQ, separation anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. No other offspring anxiety disorder predicted memory performance. Neither parental PD nor parental MDD was associated with offspring memory performance. These findings are relevant to understanding the phenomenology of childhood anxiety disorders and may provide insights into the neural circuits underlying these disorders.