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Psychiatry Res. 1998 Dec 14;84(2-3):101-11.

Brain function in spider phobia.

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  • 1Department of Psychogeriatrics, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.


Measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were performed in 16 women suffering from spider phobia. The non-invasive 133Xe inhalation method, giving information about the blood flow of superficial areas, was used. The subjects were studied under three conditions: during resting, when exposed to a videotape showing nature scenery, and finally when watching a video with living spiders. During the rCBF measurements the subjects' behaviour was registered systematically and respiration, blood pressure, Pco2, and heart rate were monitored. Eight subjects who showed and reported severe panic during the spider exposure had marked rCBF decreases in frontal areas, especially in the right hemisphere. The remaining eight subjects displayed a more efficient control of their emotions and became frightened, but not panic-stricken, during the spider exposure. These showed a consistent rCBF increase in the right frontal area compared to neutral stimulation. Thus, results revealed significant functional changes in the frontal cortex in subjects with spider phobia during phobogenic exposure. It seems likely that these frontal changes are related to the experience and control of phobic anxiety.

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