Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Studies in Anxiety Disorders
Abstract: Anxiety disorders are very common and the primary feature is abnormal or inappropriate anxiety. Fear and anxiety is often mediated by the amygdala, a brain structure rich in substance P (SP) and neurokinin 1 (NK1) receptors.To learn more about how the human amygdala is modulated by fear and anxiety in event-triggered anxiety disorders and to investigate if the SP/NK1 receptor system is affected, regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) ([15O]-water; Study I and II) and the SP/NK1 receptor system ([11C]GR205171; Study III and IV) were studied with positron emission tomography (PET).In Study I we investigated the neural correlates of affective startle modulation in persons with specific phobia by measuring rCBF during exposure to fearful and non-fearful pictures, paired and unpaired with acoustic startle stimuli. Fear-potentiated startle was associated with activation of the affective part of the anterior cingulate cortex and the left amygdaloid–hippocampal area.In Study II short-term drug treatment effects on rCBF in patients diagnosed with social phobia was evaluated, comparing the NK1 receptor antagonist GR205171 to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor citalopram and placebo. Social anxiety and neural activity in the medial temporal lobe including the amygdala was significantly reduced by both drugs but not placebo.In Study III we investigated if activity in the SP/NK1 receptor system in the amygdala would be affected by fear provocation in individuals with specific snake or spider phobia. Fear provocation was associated with a decreased uptake of the NK1 antagonist [11C]GR205171 in the amygdala, possibly explained by an increase in endogenous SP release occupying the NK1 receptors.Study IV was conducted to explore the resting state NK1 receptor availability in PTSD patients as compared to healthy controls. Increased resting state binding of the tracer [11C]GR205171 in the amygdala of patients with PTSD suggested an increased amount of available receptors.In summary, fear and fear-potentiated startle modulates the human amygdala, possibly through the SP/NK1 receptor system.
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