Current status of brain imaging in anxiety disorders

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Purpose of reviewThis study reviews the most recent literature about brain imaging research in anxiety disorders. There is a growing body of evidence that neuroimaging of anxiety disorders contributes to a better understanding of the neurobiology of these disorders, by identifying cerebral modifications occurring previously or subsequent to symptoms of anxiety. A systematic search of the literature (January 1978–July 2008) was performed in MEDLINE using the keywords brain imaging, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders and agoraphobia. References cited in all trials were searched iteratively to identify missing studies. Our review focused only on the last year's findings.Recent findingsThere is a consensus on the crucial role of the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex and insula in the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders.SummaryBrain imaging research in anxiety disorders has become increasingly important, especially in the last decade, because of the opportunity to validate neurobiological hypotheses for anxiety disorders. Thus, neuroimaging data raise the question of the neurobiological cause of anxiety disorders, opening up new reflections not only on pharmacological treatments but also on the nosology of the anxiety disorders.

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