The relationship between structural characteristics and extinction-induced brain activations in anxiety disorders (ANX) remains a space for greater exploration. In this study, we assessed gray matter volume (GMV) and its associated functional activations during fear extinction memory recall in an ANX cohort. We performed voxel-based morphometry analysis to examine GMVs from ANX (n = 92) and controls (n = 73). We further examined the correlation between GMVs and extinction-induced neural activations during recall across groups. In the patients’ group, we observed decreased GMV in the anterior hippocampus and increased GMV in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Hippocampal volume was positively correlated with ventromedial prefrontal cortex activation in healthy controls, while it was negatively correlated with dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activation in ANX. The dlPFC volume was positively correlated with activations of dACC, pre- and post-central gyrus, and supramarginal gyrus only in healthy controls. Therefore, the link between structural and functional imbalance within the hippocampus and dlPFC might contribute to the pathophysiology of ANX. In the controls, the relationship between structural variance in the hippocampus and dlPFC and extinction-induced neural activations is consistent with a greater ability to regulate fear responding; associations that were absent in the ANX cohort. Furthermore, our findings of structure-function abnormalities within key nodes of emotional homeostasis in ANX point to dlPFC as a potential neural node to target using neuromodulation tools.
- Anxiety disorders
- Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
- Fear extinction
- Functional activation
- Gray matter volume