Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 263–269 | Cite as

Neural correlates of spontaneous panic attacks

  • Thomas DreslerEmail author
  • Tim Hahn
  • Michael M. Plichta
  • Lena H. Ernst
  • Sara V. Tupak
  • Ann-Christine Ehlis
  • Bodo Warrings
  • Jürgen Deckert
  • Andreas J. Fallgatter
Biological Psychiatry - Original Article


In this report, we present two anxiety disorder patients who spontaneously experienced a panic attack during an fMRI examination and subsequently aborted the measurement. We analyzed the functional data gathered up to that point in relation to the patients’ subsequent verbal reports of the course of the panic attacks. Within prominent structures of the fear network (amygdala, insula, prefrontal cortex) neural dynamics mirrored the description of the attack very well for one of the patients. For the other patient who experienced a less intense attack and who was treated pharmacologically at the time of measurement, the relation was limited to the prefrontal cortex. Investigating the temporal dynamics of neural activation in an ecologically valid situation may point to the potentially different roles of the amygdala and the insula as well as the prefrontal cortex prior to and during a panic attack.


Panic attack fMRI Insula Amygdala Prefrontal cortex 



We would like to thank Drs. Blaimer and Breuer (Research Center for Magnetic Resonance Bavaria e.V.) for technical assistance. The study was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Transregio-SFB TRR 58, grant No. TRR58-C4 to ACE & AJF, grant TRR58-Z2 to JD).

Conflict of Interest

The authors reported no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Dresler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tim Hahn
    • 1
  • Michael M. Plichta
    • 2
  • Lena H. Ernst
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sara V. Tupak
    • 1
  • Ann-Christine Ehlis
    • 1
    • 4
  • Bodo Warrings
    • 3
  • Jürgen Deckert
    • 3
  • Andreas J. Fallgatter
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Psychophysiology and Functional Imaging, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital WuerzburgWuerzburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Division for Imaging in PsychiatryCentral Institute of Mental HealthMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital WuerzburgWuerzburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital TuebingenTuebingenGermany

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