Functional Connectome Prediction of Anxiety Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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Increased anxiety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely noted. The purpose of this study was to test whether the prepandemic functional connectome predicted individual anxiety induced by the pandemic.Anxiety scores from healthy undergraduate students were collected during the severe and remission periods of the pandemic (first survey, February 22-28, 2020, N=589; second survey, April 24 to May 1, 2020, N=486). Brain imaging data and baseline (daily) anxiety ratings were acquired before the pandemic. The predictive performance of the functional connectome on individual anxiety was examined using machine learning and was validated in two external undergraduate student samples (N=149 and N=474). The clinical relevance of the findings was further explored by applying the connectome-based neuromarkers of pandemic-related anxiety to distinguish between individuals with specific mental disorders and matched healthy control subjects (generalized anxiety disorder, N=43; major depression, N=536; schizophrenia, N=72).Anxiety scores increased from the prepandemic baseline to the severe stage of the pandemic and remained high in the remission stage. The prepandemic functional connectome predicted pandemic-related anxiety and generalized to the external sample but showed poor performance for predicting daily anxiety. The connectome-based neuromarkers of pandemic-related anxiety further distinguished between participants with generalized anxiety and healthy control subjects but were not useful for diagnostic classification in major depression and schizophrenia.These findings demonstrate the feasibility of using the functional connectome to predict individual anxiety induced by major stressful events (e.g., the current global health crisis), which advances our understanding of the neurobiological basis of anxiety susceptibility and may have implications for developing targeted psychological and clinical interventions that promote the reduction of stress and anxiety.

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Authors: Li He, Dongtao Wei, Fan Yang, Jie Zhang, Wei Cheng, Jianfeng Feng, Wenjing Yang, Kaixiang Zhuang, Qunlin Chen, Zhiting Ren, Yu Li, Xiaoqin Wang, Yu Mao, Zhiyi Chen, Mei Liao, Huiru Cui, Chunbo Li, Qinghua He, Xu Lei, Tingyong Feng, Hong Chen, Peng Xie, Edmund T Rolls, Linyan Su, Lingjiang Li, Jiang Qiu