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In social anxiety disorder (SAD), impairments in limbic/paralimbic structures are associated with emotional dysregulation and inhibition of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). Little is known, however, about alterations in limbic and frontal regions associated with the integrated morphometric, functional, and structural architecture of SAD. Whether altered gray matter volume is associated with altered functional and structural connectivity in SAD. Three techniques were used with 18 SAD patients and 18 healthy controls: voxel-based morphometry; resting-state functional connectivity analysis; and diffusion tensor imaging tractography. SAD patients exhibited significantly decreased gray matter volumes in the right posterior inferior temporal gyrus (ITG) and right parahippocampal/hippocampal gyrus (PHG/HIP). Gray matter volumes in these two regions negatively correlated with the fear factor of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. In addition, we found increased functional connectivity in SAD patients between the right posterior ITG and the left inferior occipital gyrus, and between the right PHF/HIP and left middle temporal gyrus. SAD patients had increased right MPFC volume, along with enhanced structural connectivity in the genu of the corpus callosum. Reduced limbic/paralimbic volume, together with increased resting-state functional connectivity, suggests the existence of a compensatory mechanism in SAD. Increased MPFC volume, consonant with enhanced structural connectivity, suggests a long-time overgeneralization of structural connectivity and a role of this area in the mediation of clinical severity. Overall, our results may provide a valuable basis for future studies combining morphometric, functional and anatomical data in the search for a comprehensive understanding of the neural circuitry underlying SAD.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Res

Publication Date





167 - 177


Anxiety Disorders, Brain, Brain Mapping, Cross-Sectional Studies, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Female, Humans, Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Neural Pathways, Rest, Social Behavior Disorders, Young Adult