Structural and functional neuroimaging studies in generalized anxiety disorder: A systematic review

Domenico Madonna, Giuseppe Delvecchio, Jair C. Soares, Paolo Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: Brain imaging studies carried out in patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have contributed to better characterize the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying this disorder. The present study reviews the available functional and structural brain imaging evidence on GAD, and suggests further strategies for investigations in this field. Methods: A systematic literature review was performed in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar, aiming to identify original research evaluating GAD patients with the use of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging as well as diffusion tensor imaging. Results: The available studies have shown impairments in ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, posterior parietal regions, and amygdala in both pediatric and adult GAD patients, mostly in the right hemisphere. However, the literature is often tentative, given that most studies have employed small samples and included patients with comorbidities or in current use of various medications. Finally, different methodological aspects, such as the type of imaging equipment used, also complicate the generalizability of the findings. Conclusions: Longitudinal neuroimaging studies with larger samples of both juvenile and adult GAD patients, as well as at risk individuals and unaffected relatives, should be carried out in order to shed light on the specific biological signature of GAD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-362
Number of pages27
JournalBrazilian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Functional MRI
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Resting-state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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