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Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;161(6):1119-21.

Dorsolateral prefrontal cortical pathology in generalized anxiety disorder: a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging study.

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  • 1Department of Biological Psychiatry, New york State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia Unversity, New York, NY 10032, USA. sm524@columbia.edu



Few neuroimaging studies of generalized anxiety disorder have been conducted. The present study used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess concentrations of N-acetylaspartate, often considered a marker of neuronal viability, in generalized anxiety disorder patients.


N-Acetylaspartate/creatine resonance ratios were measured in the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of 15 medication-free generalized anxiety disorder patients and 15 age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers.


Generalized anxiety disorder patients had a 16.5% higher N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratio in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex compared with healthy participants; 13 of 15 matched patient-comparison subject pairs displayed a difference in this direction. In addition, generalized anxiety disorder patients reporting childhood abuse had lower N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratios in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex than did nonabused patients. Metabolite differences were not detected in other regions.


Generalized anxiety disorder is associated with asymmetric increases in the N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratio, a suggested marker of neuronal viability, in the prefrontal cortex. The findings also support prior research linking childhood abuse to reduced neuronal viability.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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