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Are Anxiety Disorders Associated with Accelerated Aging? A Focus on Neuroprogression.

Authors: Giampaolo G. Perna, Giuseppe G. Iannone, Alessandra A. Alciati, Daniela D. Caldirola
Published: 12/31/2015, Neural plasticity


Anxiety disorders (AnxDs) are highly prevalent throughout the lifespan, with detrimental effects on daily-life functioning, somatic health, and quality of life. An emerging perspective suggested that AnxDs may be associated with accelerated aging. In this paper, we explored the association between AnxDs and hallmarks of accelerated aging, with a specific focus on neuroprogression. We reviewed animal and human findings that suggest an overlap between processes of impaired neurogenesis, neurodegeneration, structural, functional, molecular, and cellular modifications in AnxDs, and aging. Although this research is at an early stage, our review suggests a link between anxiety and accelerated aging across multiple processes involved in neuroprogression. Brain structural and functional changes that accompany normal aging were more pronounced in subjects with AnxDs than in coevals without AnxDs, including reduced grey matter density, white matter alterations, impaired functional connectivity of large-scale brain networks, and poorer cognitive performance. Similarly, molecular correlates of brain aging, including telomere shortening, Aβ accumulation, and immune-inflammatory and oxidative/nitrosative stress, were overrepresented in anxious subjects. No conclusions about causality or directionality between anxiety and accelerated aging can be drawn. Potential mechanisms of this association, limitations of the current research, and implications for treatments and future studies are discussed.

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