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Changes in functional connectivity with cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder predict outcomes at follow-up

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Christina F. Sandman, Katherine S. Young, Lisa J. Burklund, Darby E. Saxbe, Matthew D. Lieberman, Michelle G. Craske

Original languageEnglish
Article number103612
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

King's Authors


Approximately half of individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) treated with psychological intervention do not achieve clinically significant improvement or retain long-term gains. Neurobiological models of SAD propose that disruptions in functioning of amygdala-prefrontal circuitry is implicated in short-term treatment response. However, whether treatment-related changes in functional connectivity predict long-term well-being after psychotherapy is unknown. Patients with SAD completed an incidental emotion regulation task during fMRI before and after treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy (n = 23, collapsed across groups). Psychophysiological interaction analyses using amygdala seed regions were conducted to assess changes in functional connectivity from pre-to post-treatment that predicted symptom change from 6 to 12-month follow-up. Negative change (i.e., greater inverse/weaker positive) in amygdala connectivity with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) predicted greater symptom reduction during follow-up. Positive change in amygdala connectivity with the cerebellum, fusiform gyrus, and pre-central and post-central gyri predicted less symptom reduction (e.g., no change or worsening). Results suggest that strengthened amygdala connectivity with regulatory regions may promote better long-term outcomes, whereas changes with visual and sensorimotor regions may represent sensitization to emotion-related cues, conferring poorer outcomes. Clinical implications for treatment personalization are discussed, should effects replicate in larger samples.

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