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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 May;31(5):925-32.

Anxiety and hippocampus volume in the rat.

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  • 1NMR Study Group, Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany. rkalisch@fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk


In depressed patients as well as healthy controls, a positive relationship between hippocampal volume and trait anxiety has been reported. This study sought to explore the possible inter-relation between hippocampal volume and trait anxiety further. Magnetic resonance imaging at 7 T was used to measure hippocampal volumes in a rat model of extremes in trait anxiety (experiment 1) and in a Wistar population with normal anxiety-related behavior (experiment 2). In addition to anxiety-related behavior, potentially confounding factors (depression-like, exploratory, and locomotor behavior) were assessed. Experiment 1 globally supported the hypothesis of a positive relationship between hippocampus volume and trait anxiety but did not allow for ruling out possible confounds arising from cosegregation of other behavioral traits. Experiment 2 yielded strong evidence for a negative relationship which was specific for trait anxiety. Thus, the relationship between hippocampal volume and anxiety may be more complex than expected. Interestingly, anxiety-related behavior in experiment 2 had a stronger influence on hippocampal volume than depression-like behavior. In the light of hippocampal volume loss in anxiety disorder and frequent comorbidity of anxiety and depression, this finding suggests that further research into the relationship between anxiety and hippocampal volume may be critical for understanding hippocampal contributions to normal and pathological behavior.

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