Functional Alterations in Cerebellar Functional Connectivity in Anxiety Disorders


Yoon Ji Lee, Xavier Guell, Nicholas A Hubbard, Viviana Siless, Isabelle R Frosch, Mathias Goncalves, Nicole Lo, Atira Nair, Satrajit S Ghosh, Stefan G Hofmann, Randy P Auerbach, Diego A Pizzagalli, Anastasia Yendiki, John DE Gabrieli, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, and Sheeba Arnold Anteraper. 2021. “Functional Alterations in Cerebellar Functional Connectivity in Anxiety Disorders.” Cerebellum, 20, 3, Pp. 392-401.


Adolescents with anxiety disorders exhibit excessive emotional and somatic arousal. Neuroimaging studies have shown abnormal cerebral cortical activation and connectivity in this patient population. The specific role of cerebellar output circuitry, specifically the dentate nuclei (DN), in adolescent anxiety disorders remains largely unexplored. Resting-state functional connectivity analyses have parcellated the DN, the major output nuclei of the cerebellum, into three functional territories (FTs) that include default-mode, salience-motor, and visual networks. The objective of this study was to understand whether FTs of the DN are implicated in adolescent anxiety disorders. Forty-one adolescents (mean age 15.19 ± 0.82, 26 females) with one or more anxiety disorders and 55 age- and gender-matched healthy controls completed resting-state fMRI scans and a self-report survey on anxiety symptoms. Seed-to-voxel functional connectivity analyses were performed using the FTs from DN parcellation. Brain connectivity metrics were then correlated with State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) measures within each group. Adolescents with an anxiety disorder showed significant hyperconnectivity between salience-motor DN FT and cerebral cortical salience-motor regions compared to controls. Salience-motor FT connectivity with cerebral cortical sensorimotor regions was significantly correlated with STAI-trait scores in HC (R2 = 0.41). Here, we report DN functional connectivity differences in adolescents diagnosed with anxiety, as well as in HC with variable degrees of anxiety traits. These observations highlight the relevance of DN as a potential clinical and sub-clinical marker of anxiety.