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Structural gray matter characteristics of anxiety remain unclear. The aim of this study was to assess the influence of current depressive symptoms and history of depression on the gray matter characteristics of trait anxiety.
Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from 393 individuals aged 65 years or older were used. Regions of interest (ROIs) included the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insula, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and temporal cortex. Trait anxiety was measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Depression and depressive symptoms were measured using DSM-IV criteria and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD).
After adjustments for sociodemographics and health-related variables, anxiety had a significant influence on the gray matter characteristics in all cortical ROIs. First, in participants without depression antecedents, higher trait anxiety was associated with a larger cortical thickness in all cortical ROIs. Second, in participants with a previous history of depression, higher trait anxiety was associated with a smaller cortical thickness in all cortical ROIs.
These results suggest that anxiety is related to cortical thickness differently in healthy older adults and in older adults with psychiatric antecedents. Anxiety associated with thinner cortical areas could reflect symptoms of a specific type of depression or a vulnerability to develop depression.
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