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Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 1;56(3):881-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.064. Epub 2011 Feb 26.

Reduced resting-state functional connectivity between amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex in social anxiety disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Biological Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Social anxiety disorder patients suffer from excessive anxious responses in social interaction leading to avoidance behavior and social impairment. Although the amygdala has a central role in perception and processing of threatening cues, little is known about the involved networks and corresponding dysfunctions in social anxiety. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the functional connectivity network of the amygdala in patients with social anxiety disorder and to identify regions that might influence amygdalar reactivity via modulatory pathways. Ten patients with anxiety disorders (social and/or panic) and 27 healthy controls underwent a facial emotion processing task as well as 6-min functional MRI at resting state. Individual voxel-wise functional connectivity maps were calculated using the amygdala as seed region. Group comparisons were done by random-effects analysis in SPM. Patients exhibited an amygdala hyperactivation during the emotional task and decreased functional coupling of the left amygdala with the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus. The strength of this functional connectivity showed a negative association with the severity of state anxiety. In addition, an exploratory analysis revealed further reduced functional connectivity and a marked functional separation between the medial orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices in the patient group. Our results suggest alterations within the amygdalar functional connectivity network in social anxiety disorder. Combined with the amygdalar hyperactivation our findings corroborate the proposed dysfunction of the fronto-amygdalar inhibition in anxiety disorders and indicate a modulatory influence of the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices on threat perception and processing.

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