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Psychiatry Res. 2014 Apr 30;222(1-2):37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2014.02.008. Epub 2014 Feb 22.

An fMRI-study on semantic priming of panic-related information in depression without comorbid anxiety.

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Str. 25, 53127 Bonn, Germany; Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Medical School, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Psychiatry und Psychotherapy, Philipps-University Marburg, Rudolf-Bultmann-Straße 8, 35039 Marburg, Germany.
  • 3Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Medical School, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany; JARA-Translational Brain Medicine, Aachen, Germany.


Depression often involves anxiety symptoms and shows a strong comorbidity with panic disorder. However, the neural basis is unclear. The aim of the current study was to use semantic priming to investigate the neural correlates of panic and anxiety-related information processing in depression. In a lexical decision task, panic/agoraphobia-disorder-related and neutral word-pairs were presented during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants comprised 19 patients with major depression but without comorbid anxiety and 19 demographically matched controls. On a behavioral level, comparable significant priming effects were found for the neutral condition, while only patients showed a significant inhibition effect (slower reaction time for panic-related stimuli) for the panic condition. On a neural level, significant group differences emerged in left fronto-parietal (enhanced activation for patients) and left temporo-occipital regions (reduced activation for patients). The results showed that depressed patients recruit not only areas related to the interaction of emotion and semantic processing but also regions that are related to fear circuitry to process panic-related information. Hence, in the context of depression, there seems to be a pathological processing of panic-related information that could play an important role during the disorder and should be considered.


Affective disorder; Emotion cognition interaction; Semantic processing

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