Social anxiety disorder (SAD) has received relatively little attention in neurobiological studies. We sought to identify neuro-anatomical changes associated with successful treatment for the disorder. Fourteen patients (31 years; 57% female) with DSM-IV generalized SAD were imaged before and after 8-weeks of paroxetine treatment on a 1.5 T GE Signa MRI scanner. Symptoms were assessed by a clinician using the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS). Longitudinal changes in voxel based morphometry (VBM) were determined using the VBM8 Toolbox for SPM8. Symptom severity decreased by 46% following treatment (p<0.001). At week 8, significant gray matter reductions were detected in bilateral caudate and putamen, and right thalamus, and increases in the cerebellum. Gray matter decreases in left thalamus were correlated with clinical response. This is the first study to our knowledge to identify treatment related correlates of symptom improvement for SAD. Replication in larger samples with control groups is needed to confirm these findings, as well as to test their specificity and temporal stability.
Keywords: Caudate; Cerebellum; Paroxetine; Social anxiety; Structural MRI; Thalamus.
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