Anxiety is a common comorbid condition in pediatric bipolar disorder (BD). However, there is little known about the effects of comorbidity on brain morphometry in this population. The aim of the present study was to examine subcortical correlates of anxiety in familial pediatric BD. The subject group comprised 120 children (mean age=12+/-3.3 years) with at least one parent diagnosed with BD. Bipolar offspring with BD were compared with bipolar offspring without BD on a measure of overall lifetime anxiety. A sub-sample of 20 bipolar offspring with BD (mean age=14.6+/-2.8 years) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with a 3-T scanner. Correlational analyses were conducted between hippocampal and amygdalar volumes, and anxiety scores. The results showed significantly higher anxiety in bipolar offspring with BD compared to bipolar offspring without BD. There was a significant negative association between total hippocampal volume and anxiety scores. No significant association was found between total amygdalar volume and anxiety scores. Clinically, these findings suggest that anxiety comorbidity needs to be properly assessed and treated in the management of pediatric BD. This is the first study to show a negative association between hippocampal volume and anxiety in this population. The overlap between anxiety and familial pediatric BD suggests that anxiety may be one important area of future research in parsing out the heterogeneous nature and complex etiology of early-onset BD.
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