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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011;13(4):453-61.

Neuroimaging in anxiety disorders.

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University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Branch, Hamburg, Germany.


Over the last few years, neuroimaging techniques have contributed greatly to the identification of the structural and functional neuroanatomy of anxiety disorders. The amygdala seems to be a crucial structure for fear and anxiety, and has consistently been found to be activated in anxiety-provoking situations. Apart from the amygdala, the insula and anterior cinguiate cortex seem to be critical, and ail three have been referred to as the "fear network." In the present article, we review the main findings from three major lines of research. First, we examine human models of anxiety disorders, including fear conditioning studies and investigations of experimentally induced panic attacks. Then we turn to research in patients with anxiety disorders and take a dose look at post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Finally, we review neuroimaging studies investigating neural correlates of successful treatment of anxiety, focusing on exposure-based therapy and several pharmacological treatment options, as well as combinations of both.


amygdala; anxiety disorder; functional magnetic resonance imaging; neuroimaging; treatment

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