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Neuroreport. 2006 Mar 20;17(4):361-3.

Increased brainstem volume in panic disorder: a voxel-based morphometric study.

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Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York, USA.


Neurocircuitry models of panic disorder have hypothesized that the panic attack itself stems from loci in the brainstem including the ascending reticular system and respiratory and cardiovascular control centers. Voxel-based morphometry with acobian modulation was used to examine gray matter volume changes in 10 panic disorder patients and 23 healthy controls. The panic disorder patients had a relatively increased gray matter volume in the midbrain and rostral pons of the brainstem. Increased ventral hippocampal and decreased regional prefrontal cortex volumes were also noted at a lower significance threshold. This finding has implications for pathophysiologic models of panic disorder, and provides structural evidence for the role of the brainstem in neurocircuitry models of panic disorder.

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