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Concept: Panic attack


There are relatively few existing studies examining neuropsychological functioning in social phobia (SP), which collectively yield mixed results. Interpretation of results is further complicated by a number of methodological inconsistencies across studies, including the examination of neuropsychological domains in relative isolation from one another. The present study utilized a broader collection of neuropsychological tests to assess nine domains of functioning in 25 individuals diagnosed with generalized SP and 25 nonpsychiatric controls (NC). A mixed ANOVA revealed neither a significant group by domain interaction, nor a significant main effect of group. Furthermore, no significant group differences emerged between the SP and NC groups within each specific neuropsychological domain. These findings suggest that underlying neuropsychological deficits are not likely to account for the information processing biases observed in the empirical literature, and appear to be consistent with current theoretical models which argue for the specificity of these biases to social information.

Concepts: Scientific method, Generalized anxiety disorder, Fear, Fight-or-flight response, Social anxiety disorder, Panic attack, Phobias, Specific social phobia


Floatation-REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy) reduces sensory input to the nervous system through the act of floating supine in a pool of water saturated with Epsom salt. The float experience is calibrated so that sensory signals from visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, vestibular, gravitational and proprioceptive channels are minimized, as is most movement and speech. This open-label study aimed to examine whether Floatation-REST would attenuate symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression in a clinical sample. Fifty participants were recruited across a spectrum of anxiety and stress-related disorders (posttraumatic stress, generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, and social anxiety), most (n = 46) with comorbid unipolar depression. Measures of self-reported affect were collected immediately before and after a 1-hour float session, with the primary outcome measure being the pre- to post-float change score on the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory. Irrespective of diagnosis, Floatation-REST substantially reduced state anxiety (estimated Cohen’s d > 2). Moreover, participants reported significant reductions in stress, muscle tension, pain, depression and negative affect, accompanied by a significant improvement in mood characterized by increases in serenity, relaxation, happiness and overall well-being (p < .0001 for all variables). In reference to a group of 30 non-anxious participants, the effects were found to be more robust in the anxious sample and approaching non-anxious levels during the post-float period. Further analysis revealed that the most severely anxious participants reported the largest effects. Overall, the procedure was well-tolerated, with no major safety concerns stemming from this single session. The findings from this initial study need to be replicated in larger controlled trials, but suggest that Floatation-REST may be a promising technique for transiently reducing the suffering in those with anxiety and depression.

Concepts: Anxiety, Sensory system, Sense, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Anxiety disorder, Sertraline, Panic attack


The complex pathogenesis of anxiety and panic disorder in particular has been suggested to be influenced by genetic factors such as the adenosine A2A receptor gene (ADORA2A) 1976T>C polymorphism (rs5751876) as well as neuropsychological factors such as early information processing deficits. In 114 healthy individuals (males=57, females=57) controlled for anxiety sensitivity (AS), a multi-level risk model of the development of anxiety was applied: Genetic (ADORA2A 1976T>C variant) and biochemical (300mg of caffeine citrate vs. placebo) factors were hypothesized to influence early information processing as measured by the prepulse inhibition/facilitation paradigm (stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 60, 120, 240, 480 and 2000ms between prepulses and startle stimuli). A fourfold interaction of genotype, intervention, gender, and SOAs was discerned. Stratification by SOAs revealed that at 120ms and 240ms SOAs in the caffeine condition, PPI was impaired in female ADORA2A 1976TT risk genotype carriers as compared to male ADORA2A 1976TT homozygotes, while no significant effects were observed in the ADORA2A 1976CC/CT non-risk genotype or placebo group. Only in high anxiety sensitive probands, a significant intervention effect was discerned with impaired prepulse facilitation (PPF) due to caffeine. The present results point to an impaired ability to selectively process very early information and to gate irrelevant sensory information, respectively, in female ADORA2A 1976TT homozygotes in response to caffeine, providing further evidence for the adenosinergic system to be involved in the pathogenesis of anxiety.

Concepts: Genetics, Sensory system, Caffeine, Panic disorder, Adenosine receptor, Panic attack, Adenosine A1 receptor, Prepulse inhibition


The monitoring of patients with an anxiety disorder can benefit from Routine Outcome Monitoring (ROM). As anxiety disorders differ in phenomenology, several anxiety questionnaires are included in ROM: Brief Scale for Anxiety (BSA), PADUA Inventory Revised (PI-R), Panic Appraisal Inventory (PAI), Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ), Worry Domains Questionnaire (WDQ), Social Interaction, Anxiety Scale (SIAS), Social Phobia Scale (SPS), and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R). We aimed to generate reference values for both ‘healthy’ and ‘clinically anxious’ populations for these anxiety questionnaires.

Concepts: Anxiety, Sociology, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Panic attack


Cognitive models of social anxiety [Clark and Wells, Social phobia: Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment, Guilford Press, New York, 1995], diagnostic criteria and studies on adult samples suggest that both an overestimation of bodily anxiety symptoms and psychophysiological abnormalities play an important role in social anxiety. To date, less is known about such a perception bias and physiological characteristics in children and adolescents with social anxiety. We performed a systematic review of the literature in the electronic databases Medline, PsycINFO, and PSYNDEX. Additional studies were identified by hand search using the ancestry approach. We identified 1,461 studies, screened their titles and abstracts, viewed 94 papers, and included 28 of these. Study samples were heterogeneous and consisted of socially phobic, high socially anxious, shy and test anxious children and adolescents. Regarding a biased perception, most studies in the review suggest that bodily symptoms of anxiety were overestimated by children and adolescents across the social anxiety spectrum when compared with control groups. An elevated psychophysiological reactivity to social stress was present in samples of high social anxiety, shyness, and test anxiety. In clinical samples with social phobia, by contrast, no differences or an even lower physiological responding compared with healthy control groups were reported. In addition, some evidence for a chronic psychophysiological hyperarousal was found across all sample types. The results are discussed with regard to current models of social anxiety, psychophysiological theories, and treatment implications.

Concepts: Anxiety, Scientific method, Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Fear, Social anxiety, Fight-or-flight response, Panic attack


Unexpected, recurrent panic attacks and anxious apprehension are two distinct emotional phenomena that constitute the core symptoms for diagnosing panic disorder. Taking a neuroscience perspective the current review paper presents both epidemiological and experimental psychophysiological evidence suggesting that panic attacks can be conceptualized as an unconditioned circa defense response pattern to intense internal threat stimuli, characterized by strong autonomic surge and escape behavior and abnormal plastic changes of the brain. Anxious apprehension develops after the experience of such severe panic attacks as conditioned responses to mild body symptoms. Theoretically these conditioned fear responses can be considered as post-encounter defense characterized by increased selective attention, increased threat appraisal and defensive freezing and startle potentiation evidencing altered brain circuits evoked by mild body symptoms. Agoraphobic avoidance starts very early during the defensive cascade and can be conceived as motivated behavior driven by the incentive to be in a safe context that is under control of the individual.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Fear, Social anxiety disorder, Panic attack, Agoraphobia, Panic


The association between perceived friendship quality (FQ) and social information processing (SIP) was examined in three groups of children and their close friends aged 7-12¬†years: 16 anxiety disordered children with social phobia (SP); 12 anxiety disordered children without SP (No-SP); and 32 nonclinical children. Positive and negative FQ positively associated with target children’s positive and negative responding on a vignette measure of SIP. SP children reported lower positive SIP than No-SP but not nonclinical children; and this was the only group difference in SIP. Target children and their friends were similar in negative but not positive SIP. Following discussion about the vignette with a close friend, all target children increased in positive SIP; negative SIP did not change. Lower FQ and a more socially anxious friend predicted higher negative target child SIP postdiscussion. Close friendships play an important role in the SIP of both clinical and nonclinical children.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Interpersonal relationship, Fear, Fight-or-flight response, Love, Friendship, Panic attack


Panic disorder with agoraphobia is characterized by panic attacks and anxiety in situations where escape might be difficult. However, neuroimaging studies specifically focusing on agoraphobia are rare. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with disorder-specific stimuli to investigate the neural substrates of agoraphobia.

Concepts: Brain, Neuroscience, Magnetic resonance imaging, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Social anxiety disorder, Panic attack, Agoraphobia


A hypnosis protocol for treating panic disorder is provided. The implementation of this protocol is demonstrated through a case example involving the successful treatment of a 28-year-old firefighter presenting with a 4-month history of near-daily panic attacks. Core principles associated with this protocol include: (1) Elementary education about the physiology of panic; (2) A review of primary factors contributing to the evolution and manifestation of panic; (3) Encouragement of physical activity; (4) Utilization of hypnosis applications; and (5) Monitoring and measuring progress evidenced by a reduction in the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. Six years after his last hypnosis session, “Jason,” the once panicked firefighter returned to my office for concerns unrelated to panic, and reported that he remained panic-free, retained his job, and was twice promoted.

Concepts: Case study, Primary school, Primary education, Panic disorder, Fear, Panic attack, Elementary school, Panic


Panic disorder (PD) is associated with hyperventilation. The efficacy of a brief respiratory feedback program for PD has been established. The aim of the present study was to expand these results by testing a similar program with more clinically representative patients and settings. Sixty-nine adults with PD received 4 weeks of Capnometry Guided Respiratory Intervention (CGRI) using Freespira, which provides feedback of end-tidal CO2 (PETCO2) and respiration rate (RR), in four non-academic clinical settings. This intervention is delivered via home use following initial training by a clinician and provides remote monitoring of client adherence and progress by the clinician. Outcomes were assessed post-treatment and at 2- and 12-month follow-up. CGRI was associated with an intent-to-treat response rate of 83% and a remission rate of 54%, and large decreases in panic severity. Similar decreases were found in functional impairment and in global illness severity. Gains were largely sustained at follow-up. PETCO2 moved from the slightly hypocapnic range to the normocapnic range. Benchmarking analyses against a previously-published controlled trial showed very similar outcomes, despite substantial differences in sample composition and treatment settings. The present study confirms prior clinical results and lends further support to the viability of CGRI in the treatment of PD.

Concepts: Present, Time, Carbon dioxide, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Crossover study, Respiration, Panic attack