Anxious/depressed symptoms are related to microstructural maturation of white matter in typically developing youths

Dev Psychopathol. 2017 Aug;29(3):751-758. doi: 10.1017/S0954579416000444. Epub 2016 Jun 14.


There are multiple recent reports of an association between anxious/depressed (A/D) symptomatology and the rate of cerebral cortical thickness maturation in typically developing youths. We investigated the degree to which anxious/depressed symptoms are tied to age-related microstructural changes in cerebral fiber pathways. The participants were part of the NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development. Child Behavior Checklist A/D scores and diffusion imaging were available for 175 youths (84 males, 91 females; 241 magnetic resonance imagings) at up to three visits. The participants ranged from 5.7 to 18.4 years of age at the time of the scan. Alignment of fractional anisotropy data was implemented using FSL/Tract-Based Spatial Statistics, and linear mixed model regression was carried out using SPSS. Child Behavior Checklist A/D was associated with the rate of microstructural development in several white matter pathways, including the bilateral anterior thalamic radiation, bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculus, left superior longitudinal fasciculus, and right cingulum. Across these pathways, greater age-related fractional anisotropy increases were observed at lower levels of A/D. The results suggest that subclinical A/D symptoms are associated with the rate of microstructural development within several white matter pathways that have been implicated in affect regulation, as well as mood and anxiety psychopathology.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Anxiety / diagnostic imaging*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*