Adolescence is the most sensitive period for the development of pathological anxiety. Moreover, specific neural changes associated with the striatum might be related to adolescent vulnerability to anxiety. Up to now, the study of anxiety has primarily focused on the amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), while the striatum has typically not been considered as part of the anxiety system. This review proposes the addition of the striatum, a complex, multi-component structure, to the anxiety network by underscoring two lines of research. First, the co-occurrence of the adolescent striatal development with the peak vulnerability of adolescents to anxiety disorders might potentially reflect a causal relationship. Second, the recognition of the role of the striatum in fundamental behavioral processes that do affect anxiety supports the putative importance of the striatum in anxiety. These behavioral processes include (1) attention, (2) conditioning/prediction error, and (3) motivation. This review proposes a simplistic schematic representation of the anxiety circuitry that includes the striatum, and aims to promote further work in this direction, as the role of the striatum in shaping an anxiety phenotype during adolescence could have critical implications for understanding and preventing the peak onset of anxiety disorders during this period. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Adolescent plasticity.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00026559.
Keywords: Attention bias; Conditioning; Dopamine; Learning; Motivation; Prediction error.
Published by Elsevier B.V.