Childhood Maltreatment Is Associated with Larger Left Thalamic Gray Matter Volume in Adolescents with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Department of Psychiatry, the Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, China.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 08/2013; 8(8):e71898. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071898
Source: PubMed


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.

Download full-text


Available from: Fan Yang, Jun 03, 2015
    • "Still, future studies might benefit from adding measures that are tailored to specific aspects of GAD symptomatology. Additionally, the main finding of structural alterations in basal-ganglia regions has been shown before in another GAD sample without comorbid depression (Liao et al., 2013). Also, while there was higher GM volume in the putamen and caudate nucleus in this study, the literature reports consistently lower volumes in these structures for major depression (Kempton et al., 2011; Bora et al., 2012a, 2012b). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Increasing efforts have been made to investigate the underlying pathophysiology of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but only limited consistent information is available on gray (GM) and white matter (WM) volume changes in affected adults. Additionally, few studies employed dimensional approaches to GAD pathology. This study compares structural brain imaging data from n=19 GAD subjects and n=24 healthy comparison (HC) subjects, all medication-free and matched on age, sex and education. Separate categorical and dimensional models were employed using voxel-based morphometry for GM and WM. Significantly higher GM volumes were found in GAD subjects mainly in basal ganglia structures and less consistently in the superior temporal pole. For WM, GAD subjects showed significantly lower volumes in the dlPFC. Largely consistent findings in dimensional and categorical models point toward these structural alterations being reliable and of importance for GAD. While lower volume in the dlPFC could reflect impaired emotional processing and control over worry in GAD, basal ganglia alterations may be linked to disturbed gain and loss anticipation as implicated in previous functional GAD studies. As perturbations in anticipation processes are central to GAD, these areas may warrant greater attention in future studies.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Placement instability is a common occurrence among foster children and others involved with child welfare system services, and is associated with negative psychiatric and mental health outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to review and synthesize research in this area and to consider this information in terms of child welfare practice and policy. Evidence from 59 sources is reviewed, including research on (a) the connection between placement instability and poor outcomes; (b) sources of information that can be employed to reliably predict risk designed to for placement instability; and (c) interventions mitigate the effects of placement instability The available empirical evidence suggests that placement instability and other family chaos is associated with disrupted development of the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive functioning. Poor executive functioning is implicated in elevated risk for ADHD, disruptive behavior disorders, substance abuse, and other forms of disinhibitory psychopathology. This might help to explain the high rates of psychiatric medication prescriptions for foster children. Notably, however, recent research findings have shown that placement instability is both predictable and preventable and that interventions to address placement instability have the potential to mitigate neurobiological and psychiatric effects of prior adversity.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Child welfare
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previous epidemiological and clinical studies have reported gender differences in prevalence and clinical features of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Such gender differences in clinical phenomenology suggest that the underlying neural circuitry of GAD could also be different in males and females. This study aimed to explore the possible gender effect on gray matter volumes in adolescents with GAD. Twenty-six adolescent GAD patients and 25 healthy controls participated and underwent high-resolution structural magnetic resonance scans. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to investigate gray matter alterations. Our study revealed a significant diagnosis main effect in the right putamen, with larger gray matter volumes in GAD patients compared to healthy controls, and a significant gender main effect in the left precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, with larger gray matter volumes in males compared to females. No gender-by-diagnosis interaction effect was found in this study. The relatively small sample size in this study might result in a lack of power to demonstrate gender effects on brain structure in GAD. The results suggested that there are differences in gray matter volumes between males and females, but gray matter volumes in GAD are not influenced by gender.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Journal of Affective Disorders
Show more