Amygdala function is implicated in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety. We investigated associations between early trajectories of amygdala growth and anxiety and ASD outcomes at school age in two longitudinal studies: high- and low-familial likelihood for ASD, Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS, n = 257) and typically developing (TD) community sample, Early Brain Development Study (EBDS, n = 158). Infants underwent MRI scanning at up to 3 timepoints from neonate to 24 months. Anxiety was assessed at 6–12 years. Linear multilevel modeling tested whether amygdala volume growth was associated with anxiety symptoms at school age. In the IBIS sample, children with higher anxiety showed accelerated amygdala growth from 6 to 24 months. ASD diagnosis and ASD familial likelihood were not significant predictors. In the EBDS sample, amygdala growth from birth to 24 months was associated with anxiety. More anxious children had smaller amygdala volume and slower rates of amygdala growth. We explore reasons for the contrasting results between high-familial likelihood for ASD and TD samples, grounding results in the broader literature of variable associations between early amygdala volume and later anxiety. Results have the potential to identify mechanisms linking early amygdala growth to later anxiety in certain groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101333
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Reproducibility


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