Neurobiology of Pediatric Anxiety Disorders

Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. 2014 Sep 1;1(3):154-160. doi: 10.1007/s40473-014-0014-1.


While the fear-based anxiety disorders (i.e., generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia and separation anxiety disorder) are among the most common psychiatric conditions in children and adolescents, only recently has an integrated understanding of the neurobiology of these disorders developed. In this regard, both structural and functional neuroimaging studies have demonstrated neuroanatomic and functional abnormalities within the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in youth with fear-based anxiety disorders, and have also suggested altered functional connectivity among components of the anterior limbic network (ALN), as well as alterations in neurochemistry within the anterior cingulate cortex. Additionally, several prefrontal structures and regions (e.g., medial prefrontal cortex) appear to be dysregulated in youth who are at risk of developing anxiety disorders (e.g., youth with inhibited temperament, behavioral inhibition, etc.). Finally, emerging data raise the possibility that functional activity within these amygdala-prefrontal networks may be affected by successful psychopharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment and may predict outcome.

Keywords: 1H MRS; Anxiety disorders; Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); Separation anxiety disorder (SAD); Social phobia (SoP); fMRI.