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

Derek Sayre Andrews, Leon Aksman, Connor M. Kerns, Joshua K. Lee, Breanna M. Winder-Patel, Danielle J Harvey, Einat Waizbard-Bartov, Brianna Heath, Marjorie Solomon Friedman, Sally J Rogers, Andre Altmann, Christine Wu Nordahl, David G. Amaral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiological Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Brain
  • Development
  • Longitudinal
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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