Alterations in white matter volume and its correlation with clinical characteristics in patients with generalized anxiety disorder

Neuroradiology. 2015 Nov;57(11):1127-34. doi: 10.1007/s00234-015-1572-y. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


Introduction: Only a few morphological studies have focused on changes in white matter (WM) volume in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). We evaluated alterations in WM volume and its correlation with symptom severity and duration of illness in adults with GAD.

Methods: The 44 subjects were comprised of 22 patients with GAD (13 males and nine females) diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) and 22 age-matched healthy controls (13 males and nine females). High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were processed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis based on diffeomorphic anatomical registration using the exponentiated Lie algebra (DARTEL) algorithm in SPM8.

Results: Patients with GAD showed significantly reduced WM volume, particularly in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC), and midbrain. In addition, DLPFC volume was negatively correlated with GAD-7 score and illness duration. ALIC volume was negatively correlated with GAD-7 score. Female patients had significantly less orbitofrontal cortex volume compared to that in male patients.

Conclusion: The findings demonstrate localized changes in WM volume associated with cognitive and emotional dysfunction in patients with GAD. The finding will be helpful for understanding the neuropathology in patients with GAD.

Keywords: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); Voxel-based morphometry (VBM); White matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics as Topic
  • White Matter / pathology*