Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by strong fear and anxiety during social interactions. Although ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) activity in response to emotional stimuli is related to pathological anxiety, little is known about the relationship between VLPFC activity and social anxiety. This study aimed to investigate whether VLPFC activity was involved in SAD and whether VLPFC activity was related to the level of social anxiety. Twenty-four drug-naïve patients with SAD and 35 healthy controls underwent near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) scanning while performing a verbal fluency task (VFT). Results indicated that, compared to the healthy controls, the SAD patients exhibited smaller changes of oxygenated hemoglobin (oxy-Hb) concentrations in the VLPFC during the VFT. Furthermore, the right VLPFC activation was negatively correlated with social avoidance. In contrast to the latter, the healthy controls exhibited a positive correlation between changes of oxy-Hb concentrations in the bilateral VLPFC and social fear. Our findings provide evidence for VLPFC dysfunction in SAD, and indicate that the VLPFC dysfunction may contribute to the difference between normal and abnormal social anxiety.
ASJC Scopus subject areas