Predictors of unsuccessful magnetic resonance imaging scanning in older generalized anxiety disorder patients and controls

J Behav Med. 2012 Feb;35(1):19-26. doi: 10.1007/s10865-011-9326-8. Epub 2011 Feb 12.


A thorough understanding of the neurobiology of late life anxiety is likely to depend on the use of brain imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders in older adults, and is thus a focus for neurobiological studies using MRI. This study tested 1-3 weeks predictors of unsuccessful scan outcomes (i.e., scan trials in which the participant moved excessively or prematurely terminated the scan) in older adults with GAD (n = 39) and age- and sex-matched nonanxious controls (n = 21). It was hypothesized that successful completion of a prior MRI scan, clinical status (GAD versus control), and scores on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI; Peterson et al. 1986), a measure tapping psychological aspects of medical interventions, would predict scan outcome when current diagnoses of claustrophobia were controlled. In logistic regression analyses, unsuccessful scan outcome was predicted by prior MRI completion and ASI Mental Concerns subscale scores, but not clinical status. This model correctly classified 91% of successful and 71% of unsuccessful scans. An alternative model that included a single ASI item rather than Mental Concerns subscale scores showed similar performance, and a model including categorical anxiety sensitivity groups was also effective but slightly less accurate. Implications for improving the success rates of MRI with older adults are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged