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Keywords:

  • generalized anxiety disorder;
  • adolescence;
  • voxel-based morphometry

Background

Despite recent data implicating functional abnormalities in the neurocircuitry underlying emotional processing in pediatric anxiety disorders, little is known regarding neurostructural abnormalities within these systems.

Methods

Using voxel-based morphometry, gray and white matter volumes were compared in 15 medication-free adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; and no comorbid major depressive disorder) and 28 age- and sex-matched healthy comparison subjects.

Results

Compared to healthy adolescents, youth with GAD had larger gray matter volumes in the right precuneus and right precentral gyrus and decreased gray matter volumes in the left orbital gyrus and posterior cingulate. White matter volumes were decreased in the left medial and superior frontal gyrus and were increased in the left inferior temporal gyrus in youth with GAD relative to healthy subjects.

Conclusions

Adolescents with GAD, who are early in the course of their illness, exhibit abnormalities in neural structures that subserve threat appraisal, modulation of fear responses, attachment, and mentalization.