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J Affect Disord. 2006 Oct;95(1-3):165-71. Epub 2006 Jun 21.

Differential performance on tasks of affective processing and decision-making in patients with Panic Disorder and Panic Disorder with comorbid Major Depressive Disorder.

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  • 1Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda MD, USA.



Neuropsychological studies have provided evidence for deficits in psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and mood disorders. However, neuropsychological function in Panic Disorder (PD) or PD with a comorbid diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has not been comprehensively studied. The present study investigated neuropsychological functioning in patients with PD and PD + MDD by focusing on tasks that assess attention, psychomotor speed, executive function, decision-making, and affective processing.


Twenty-two unmedicated patients with PD, eleven of whom had a secondary diagnosis of MDD, were compared to twenty-two healthy controls, matched for gender, age, and intelligence on tasks of attention, memory, psychomotor speed, executive function, decision-making, and affective processing from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), Cambridge Gamble Task, and Affective Go/No-go Task.


Relative to matched healthy controls, patients with PD + MDD displayed an attentional bias toward negatively-valenced verbal stimuli (Affective Go/No-go Task) and longer decision-making latencies (Cambridge Gamble Task). Furthermore, the PD + MDD group committed more errors on a task of memory and visual discrimination compared to their controls. In contrast, no group differences were found for PD patients relative to matched control subjects.


The sample size was limited, however, all patients were drug-free at the time of testing.


The PD + MDD patients demonstrated deficits on a task involving visual discrimination and working memory, and an attentional bias towards negatively-valenced stimuli. In addition, patients with comorbid depression provided qualitatively different responses in the areas of affective and decision-making processes.

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