Send to

Choose Destination
J Psychosom Res. 1998 Dec;45(6):493-503.

Experimental pathophysiology of panic.

Author information

Academic Anxiety Center and Department of Psychiatry & Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


In this article, we review how the knowledge of the pathophysiology of panic disorder has expanded, with special emphasis on laboratory models using lactate and carbon dioxide challenges. Experiments in the late 1960s revealed that lactate infusion can induce panic attacks. A prominent feature of these attacks is hyperventilation. Because lactate infusion induces a metabolic alkalosis, one would rather expect a compensatory hypoventilation. For years hyperventilation was thought to be causally linked to panic, but it has since been proven to be a symptom rather than a cause of panic attacks. Similarly, it is not hypocapnia but hypercapnia that has proven to be capable of provoking panic attacks. Carbon dioxide challenges are comparable to lactate infusion in the degree to which they meet the criteria for an ideal model of panic disorder. Experiments with carbon dioxide in first-degree relatives of panic disorder patients and in monozygotic twins support the idea of a constitutional predisposition to panic disorder. Of the various other agents that have been used to trigger panic attacks, cholecystokinin seems particularly promising as a valid laboratory model of panic disorder and may provide valuable data regarding the mechanism of panic attacks. The false suffocation alarm theory, proposed by Klein, is an integrative hypothesis that may account for a large number of the laboratory as well as clinical observations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center