Resting state amygdala-prefrontal connectivity predicts symptom change after cognitive behavioral therapy in generalized social anxiety disorder

Heide Klumpp*, Michael K. Keutmann, Daniel A. Fitzgerald, Stewart A Shankman, K. Luan Phan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: Aberrant amygdala-prefrontal interactions at rest and during emotion processing are implicated in the pathophysiology of generalized social anxiety disorder (gSAD), a common disorder characterized by fears of potential scrutiny. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is first-line psychotherapy for gSAD and other anxiety disorders. While CBT is generally effective, there is a great deal of heterogeneity in treatment response. To date, predictors of success in CBT for gSAD include reduced amygdala reactivity and increased activity in prefrontal regulatory regions (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex, " ACC" ) during emotion processing. However, studies have not examined whether tonic (i.e., at rest) coupling of amygdala and these prefrontal regions also predict response to CBT.Results: Twenty-one patients with gSAD participated in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before 12 weeks of CBT. Overall, symptom severity was significantly reduced after completing CBT; however, the patients varied considerably in degree of symptom change. Whole-brain voxel-wise findings showed symptom improvement after CBT was predicted by greater right amygdala-pregenual ACC (" pgACC" ) connectivity and greater left amygdala-pgACC coupling encompassing medial prefrontal cortex. In support of their predictive value, area under receiver operating characteristic curve was significant for the left and right amygdala-pgACC in relation to treatment responders.Conclusions: Improvement after CBT was predicted by enhanced resting-state bilateral amygdala-prefrontal coupling in gSAD. Preliminary results suggest baseline individual differences in a fundamental circuitry that may underlie emotion regulation contributed to variation in symptom change after CBT. Findings offer a new approach towards using a biological measure to foretell who will most likely benefit from CBT. In particular, the departure from neural predictors based on illness-relevant stimuli (e.g., socio-emotional stimuli in gSAD) permits the development of biomarkers that reflect commonalities in the neurobiology of anxiety and mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalBiology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Brain imaging
  • Generalized social anxiety
  • Rest
  • Treatment
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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