Background: Pediatric anxiety disorders are linked to dysfunction in multiple functional brain networks, as well as to alterations in the allocation of spatial attention. We used network-level analyses to characterize resting-state functional connectivity (rs-fc) alterations associated with 1) symptoms of anxiety and 2) alterations in stimulus-driven attention associated with pediatric anxiety disorders. We hypothesized that anxiety was related to altered connectivity of the frontoparietal, default mode, cingulo-opercular, and ventral attention networks and that anxiety-related connectivity alterations that include the ventral attention network would simultaneously be related to deviations in stimulus-driven attention. Methods: A sample of children (n = 61; mean = 10.6 years of age), approximately half of whom met criteria for a current anxiety disorder, completed a clinical assay, an attention task, and rs-fc magnetic resonance imaging scans. Network-level analyses examined whole-brain rs-fc patterns associated with clinician-rated anxiety and with involuntary capture of attention. Post hoc analyses controlled for comorbid symptoms. Results: Elevated clinician-rated anxiety was associated with altered connectivity within the cingulo-opercular network, as well as between the cingulo-opercular network and the ventral attention, default mode, and visual networks. Connectivity between the ventral attention and cingulo-opercular networks was associated with variation in both anxiety and stimulus-driven attention. Conclusions: Pediatric anxiety is related to aberrant connectivity patterns among several networks, most of which include the cingulo-opercular network. These results help clarify the within- and between-network interactions associated with pediatric anxiety and its association with altered attention, suggesting that specific network connections could be targeted to improve specific altered processes associated with anxiety.
- Enrichment analysis
- Involuntary attention
- Network neuroscience
- Pediatric anxiety
- Resting-state functional connectivity