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Psychol Med. 2010 Jan;40(1):125-34. doi: 10.1017/S0033291709005972. Epub 2009 May 13.

The functional neuroanatomy of blood-injection-injury phobia: a comparison with spider phobics and healthy controls.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine, Institute of Neurosciences, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. x.caseras@iop.kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Most neuroimaging studies of specific phobia have investigated the animal subtype. The blood-injection-injury (BII) subtype is characterized by a unique biphasic psychophysiological response, which could suggest a distinct neural substrate, but direct comparisons between phobia types are lacking.

METHOD:

This study compared the neural responses during the presentation of phobia-specific stimuli in 12 BII phobics, 14 spider (SP) phobics and 14 healthy controls using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

RESULTS:

Subjective ratings showed that the experimental paradigm produced the desired symptom-specific effects. As in many previous studies, when viewing spider-related stimuli, SP phobics showed increased activation in dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insula, compared to BII phobics and healthy controls. However, when viewing images of blood-injection-injuries, participants with BII phobia mainly showed increased activation in the thalamus and visual/attention areas (occipito-temporo-parietal cortex), compared with the other two groups. The degree of provoked anxiety and disgust by phobia-relevant images was strongly associated with activation in several common regions across the two phobia groups (thalamus, cerebellum, occipito-temporal regions) but only correlated with activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus and the anterior insula in the SP phobics.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest partially distinct neurobiological substrates of animal and BII phobias and support their current classification as two distinct subtypes in the DSM-IV-TR. Further research is needed to better understand the precise neurobiological mechanisms in BII phobia and particularly the fainting response.

PMID:
19435544
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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