Explicit verbal memory impairments associated with brain functional deficits and morphological alterations in patients with generalized anxiety disorder

J Affect Disord. 2015 Nov 1;186:328-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.07.038. Epub 2015 Aug 1.


Background: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is associated with brain function and morphological alterations. This study investigated explicit verbal memory impairment in patients with GAD in terms of brain functional deficits in combination with morphologic changes.

Methods: Seventeen patients with GAD and 17 healthy controls matched for age, sex, and education level underwent high-resolution T1-weighted MRI and fMR imaging at 3 T during explicit verbal memory tasks with emotionally neutral and anxiety-inducing words.

Results: In response to the neutral words, the patients showed significantly lower activities in the regions of the hippocampus (Hip), middle cingulate gyrus (MCG), putamen (Pu) and head of the caudate nucleus (HCd) compared with healthy controls. In response to the anxiety-inducing words, the patients showed significantly higher activities in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and precentral gyrus. However, they showed lower activities in the Hip, MCG, Pu and HCd. In addition, patients with GAD showed a significant reduction in gray matter volumes, especially in the regions of the Hip, midbrain, thalamus, insula and superior temporal gyrus, compared with healthy controls.

Limitations: This study examined a small sample sizes in each of the groups, and there was no consideration of a medication effect on brain activity and volume changes.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence for the association between brain functional deficits and morphometric alterations in an explicit verbal memory task for patients with GAD. This finding is helpful for understanding explicit verbal memory impairment in connection with GAD symptoms.

Keywords: Explicit verbal memory; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); Voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / pathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged