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Neurosci Lett. 2004 Dec 6;372(3):204-8.

Brain activation to phobia-related words in phobic subjects.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena, Germany.


Behavioural studies suggest that phobic subjects are hypersensitive in the processing of phobia-related linguistic stimuli. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) brain activation to phobia-relevant words in spider phobic and non-phobic subjects. Phobia-related versus phobia-unrelated words elicited increased activation in prefrontal cortex, insula, and posterior cingulate cortex in spider phobics, while these effects were absent in controls. Furthermore, between-group comparisons confirmed that differential activations within these brain regions were specifically due to increased responses to phobia-related stimuli in phobics. Our results provide first insights into brain activation patterns when phobics are confronted with phobia-specific linguistic information und suggest a neural network for the processing of these threatening stimuli.

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