Whole-brain gray matter volume abnormalities in patients with generalized anxiety disorder: voxel-based morphometry

Neuroreport. 2014 Feb 12;25(3):184-9. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000100.


Patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience psychological distress because of excessive and uncontrollable anxiety in everyday life. Only a few morphological studies have so far focused on specific brain regions of interest as well as the gray matter volume changes in GAD patients. This study evaluated gray matter volume alterations in whole-brain areas between GAD patients and healthy controls, and sex differences between the specific brain areas with significant volume changes in GAD patients using voxel-based morphometry. Twenty-two patients with GAD (13 men and nine women), who were diagnosed using the DSM-IV-TR, and 22 age-matched healthy controls (13 men and nine women) participated in this study. The high-resolution MRI data were processed using voxel-based morphometry analysis on the basis of diffeomorphic anatomical registration through an exponentiated Lie algebra algorithm in Statistical Parametric Mapping 8. There was no significant difference in the total intracranial volume between GAD patients and controls, but a significant difference was observed between sexes (P<0.05). Patients with GAD showed significant volume reductions in the hippocampus, midbrain, thalamus, insula, and superior temporal gyrus compared with the controls. As for the sex comparison, female patients showed a significant increase in the volume of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex relative to male patients. Also, the volume of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in female patients was correlated positively with the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale score (γ=0.68, P=0.04). The specific morphological variations in patient with GAD will be helpful to understand the neural mechanism associated with a symptom of GAD. Furthermore, the findings would be valuable for the diagnostic accuracy of GAD using morphometric MRI analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Anxiety Disorders / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / pathology*
  • Organ Size
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors