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Association of Amygdala Development With Different Forms of Anxiety in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Author Footnotes
    2 DSA and LA contributed equally to this work as co-first authors.
    Derek Sayre Andrews
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Derek Sayre Andrews, Ph.D.
    Footnotes
    2 DSA and LA contributed equally to this work as co-first authors.
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 DSA and LA contributed equally to this work as co-first authors.
    Leon Aksman
    Footnotes
    2 DSA and LA contributed equally to this work as co-first authors.
    Affiliations
    Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

    Centre for Medical Image Computing, Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom
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  • Connor M. Kerns
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Joshua K. Lee
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Breanna M. Winder-Patel
    Affiliations
    MIND Institute and Department of Pediatrics, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Danielle Jenine Harvey
    Affiliations
    Division of Biostatistics, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Einat Waizbard-Bartov
    Affiliations
    MIND Institute and Department of Psychology, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Brianna Heath
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Marjorie Solomon
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Sally J. Rogers
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Andre Altmann
    Affiliations
    Centre for Medical Image Computing, Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 CWN and DGA contributed equally to this work as senior primary investigators.
    Christine Wu Nordahl
    Footnotes
    1 CWN and DGA contributed equally to this work as senior primary investigators.
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 CWN and DGA contributed equally to this work as senior primary investigators.
    David G. Amaral
    Footnotes
    1 CWN and DGA contributed equally to this work as senior primary investigators.
    Affiliations
    Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California Davis, Davis, California
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    1 CWN and DGA contributed equally to this work as senior primary investigators.
    2 DSA and LA contributed equally to this work as co-first authors.
Published:February 02, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2022.01.016

      Abstract

      Background

      The amygdala is widely implicated in both anxiety and autism spectrum disorder. However, no studies have investigated the relationship between co-occurring anxiety and longitudinal amygdala development in autism. Here, the authors characterize amygdala development across childhood in autistic children with and without traditional DSM forms of anxiety and anxieties distinctly related to autism.

      Methods

      Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired at up to four time points for 71 autistic and 55 typically developing (TD) children (∼2.5–12 years, 411 time points). Traditional DSM anxiety and anxieties distinctly related to autism were assessed at study time 4 (∼8–12 years) using a diagnostic interview tailored to autism: the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule-IV with the Autism Spectrum Addendum. Mixed-effects models were used to test group differences at study time 1 (3.18 years) and time 4 (11.36 years) and developmental differences (age-by-group interactions) in right and left amygdala volume between autistic children with and without DSM or autism-distinct anxieties and TD children.

      Results

      Autistic children with DSM anxiety had significantly larger right amygdala volumes than TD children at both study time 1 (5.10% increase) and time 4 (6.11% increase). Autistic children with autism-distinct anxieties had significantly slower right amygdala growth than TD, autism–no anxiety, and autism–DSM anxiety groups and smaller right amygdala volumes at time 4 than the autism–no anxiety (−8.13% decrease) and autism–DSM anxiety (−12.05% decrease) groups.

      Conclusions

      Disparate amygdala volumes and developmental trajectories between DSM and autism-distinct forms of anxiety suggest different biological underpinnings for these common, co-occurring conditions in autism.

      Keywords

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