NIH Research Festival
Neuroimaging research on pediatric anxiety suggests structural differences in the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex (PFC), although studies produce equivocal results. Prior studies show decreased hippocampal and amygdala gray matter volume (GMV), and increased insula GMV in anxious youth (Milham et al., 2005; Mueller et al., 2013). The only prior cortical thickness study of pediatric anxiety found increased vmPFC thickness in 13 anxious vs. 19 healthy adolescents (Strawn et al., 2014). In a larger sample of 151 youth, we tested the hypothesis that anxious patients would show reduced hippocampal and amygdala GMV and increased PFC and insular cortical thickness. MRIs were obtained from 76 healthy and 75 anxious youths who did not differ on age, sex, IQ, or SES. Automated measures obtained from Freesurfer 5.3 software examined GMV in hippocampal and amygdala regions-of-interest (ROIs), and cortical thickness in vertex-wise analyses using both whole-brain-correction and exploratory PFC-insula ROI thresholds. Anxious youth showed decreased left and right hippocampal volumes and increased thickness in left precentral gyrus and vmPFC. Right hippocampal GMV negatively correlated with anxiety severity. In this large sample, we replicated findings of decreased hippocampal volume and increased vmPFC thickness in anxious youth. Analyses linking cortical thickness to treatment response will also be discussed.
Scientific Focus Area: Neuroscience
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