Structural correlates of trait anxiety: Reduced thickness in medial orbitofrontal cortex accompanied by volume increase in nucleus accumbens

Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent, Belgium.
Journal of Affective Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.38). 06/2011; 134(1-3):315-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.06.003
Source: PubMed


Structural deficiencies within the medial prefrontal cortex have been shown in anxiety-related psychiatric disorders such as panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. In healthy subjects, trait anxiety as the individual's disposition to experience anxiety-relevant feelings or thoughts has been shown to be a risk factor for psychiatric disorders. We aimed at exploring the structural correlates of trait anxiety in normal participants. We acquired high-resolution MRI scans from 34 subjects and used FreeSurfer to obtain a measure of cortical thickness. We correlated cortical thickness with self-rated trait anxiety in a whole brain analysis. Automatic subcortical segmentations of the FreeSurfer pipeline were used to relate nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and amygdala volume to trait anxiety. Trait anxiety was negatively correlated with cortical thickness in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and positively correlated with the bilateral volume of NAcc. Cortical thickness measures extracted from mOFC were negatively associated with the volume of left NAcc. Since, like in anxiety-related psychiatric disorders, in the healthy sample studied here, trait anxiety was associated with a reduction of cortical thickness in mOFC we suggest that this thinning is a structural precondition rather than a consequence of psychiatric illnesses.

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    • "). PTSD related abnormalities however are not only functional. Gray matter volume loss or cortical thinning have also been described and are most commonly found in the hippocampus and the mesial prefrontal cortex, particularly anterior cingulate, but occasionally also in the dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal and insular cortices (Carbo et al.2005;, Geuze et al. 2008, Woon et al. 2010, Karl et al. 2006, Eckart et al. 2011, Kuehn et al. 2011, Rauch et al. 2003, Yamasue et al. 2003), i.e., in the same regions that are affected by the "
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    ABSTRACT: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by atrophy within the prefrontal-limbic network. Graph analysis was used to investigate to what degree atrophy in PTSD is associated with impaired structural connectivity within prefrontal limbic network (restricted) and how this affects the integration of the prefrontal limbic network with the rest of the brain (whole-brain). 85 male veterans (45 PTSD neg, 40 PTSD pos) underwent volumetric MRI on a 3T MR. Subfield volumes were obtained using a manual labeling scheme and cortical thickness measurements and subcortical volumes from FreeSurfer. Regression analysis was used to identify regions with volume loss. Graph analytical Toolbox (GAT) was used for graph-analysis. PTSD pos had a thinner rostral anterior cingulate and insular cortex but no hippocampal volume loss. PTSD was characterized by decreased nodal degree (orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate) and clustering coefficients (thalamus) but increased nodal betweenness (insula, orbitofrontal) and a reduced small world index in the whole brain analysis and by orbitofrontal and insular nodes with increased nodal degree, clustering coefficient and nodal betweenness in the restricted analysis. PTSD associated atrophy in the prefrontal-limbic network results in an increased structural connectivity within that network that negatively affected its integration with the rest of the brain.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging
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    • "Temporal lobe involvement may also link with DPD in patients with TLE (Lambert et al., 2002). Also of possible relevance are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies using vertex-based morphometrics which have reported abnormal brain structural changes in patients with anxiety disorders, centred on a network regulating fear and arousal (Blackmon et al., 2011; Kühn et al., 2011; Syal et al., 2012; Frick et al., 2013) that predominantly includes the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). "
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    ABSTRACT: Depersonalisation disorder (DPD) is characterised by a sense of unreality about the self and the world. Research suggests altered autonomic responsivity and dysfunction in prefrontal and temporal lobe areas in this condition. We report the first structural magnetic resonance imaging study of 20 patients with DPD and 21 controls using the FreeSurfer analysis tool employing both region-of-interest and vertex-based methods. DPD patients showed significantly lower cortical thickness in the right middle temporal region according to both methods of analysis. The vertex-based method revealed additional differences in bilateral temporal lobes, inferior frontal regions, the right posterior cingulate, and increased thickness in the right gyrus rectus and left precuneus. Clinical severity scores were negatively correlated with cortical thickness in middle and right inferior frontal regions. In sum, grey matter changes in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes are associated with DPD. Further research is required to specify the functional significance of the findings and whether they are vulnerability or disease markers.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging
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    • "The discrepancy between our data and the present literature may be due to some methodological differences. Apart from the different statistical model (multiple regression model, including age and gender as predictors of anxiety level together with thickness measurements of specific brain regions), in all previous neuroimaging studies, investigating the neural correlates of anxiety, the employed nonclinical samples were very small (Baur et al. (2012), included 32 healthy controls; Spampinato et al. (2009), included 30 healthy controls; Blackmon et al. (2011), included 34 healthy controls; Kuhn et al. (2011) included 34 healthy controls). The only neuroimaging study investigating a large cohort (Montag et al. 2012) suggested that the relationship between anxiety and brain anatomy is critically influenced by gender, a critical variable not considered in previous studies cited above. "
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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.
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