Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 299–309 | Cite as

Grey matter abnormalities in social anxiety disorder: a pilot study

  • Supriya Syal
  • Coenraad J. Hattingh
  • Jean-Paul Fouché
  • Bruce Spottiswoode
  • Paul D. Carey
  • Christine Lochner
  • Dan J. Stein
Original Paper


While a number of studies have explored the functional neuroanatomy of social anxiety disorder (SAD), data on grey matter integrity are lacking. We conducted structural MRI scans to examine the cortical thickness of grey matter in individuals with SAD. 13 unmedicated adult patients with a primary diagnosis of generalized social anxiety disorder and 13 demographically (age, gender and education) matched healthy controls underwent 3T structural magnetic resonance imaging. Cortical thickness and subcortical volumes were estimated using an automated algorithm (Freesurfer Version 4.5). Compared to controls, social anxiety disorder patients showed significant bilateral cortical thinning in the fusiform and post central regions. Additionally, right hemisphere specific thinning was found in the frontal, temporal, parietal and insular cortices of individuals with social anxiety disorder. Although uncorrected cortical grey matter volumes were significantly lower in individuals with SAD, we did not detect volumetric differences in corrected amygdala, hippocampal or cortical grey matter volumes across study groups. Structural differences in grey matter thickness between SAD patients and controls highlight the diffuse neuroanatomical networks involved in both social anxiety and social behavior. Additional work is needed to investigate the causal mechanisms involved in such structural abnormalities in SAD.


Social anxiety disorder MRI Structural abnormalities Cortical thickness Social behaviour 



Dr. Supriya Syal is supported by a Claude Leon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. We would like to thank Dr. Henri Cararra for his advice on statistical analyses.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Supriya Syal
    • 1
  • Coenraad J. Hattingh
    • 1
  • Jean-Paul Fouché
    • 3
  • Bruce Spottiswoode
    • 3
  • Paul D. Carey
    • 2
  • Christine Lochner
    • 2
  • Dan J. Stein
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Mental HealthUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of StellenboschCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.MRC/UCT Medical Imaging Research Unit, Department of Human BiologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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