Increased brainstem volume in panic disorder: a voxel-based morphometric study

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Neurocircuitry models of panic disorder have hypothesized that the panic attack itself stems from loci in the brainstem including the ascending reticular system and respiratory and cardiovascular control centers. Voxel-based morphometry with acobian modulation was used to examine gray matter volume changes in 10 panic disorder patients and 23 healthy controls. The panic disorder patients had a relatively increased gray matter volume in the midbrain and rostral pons of the brainstem. Increased ventral hippocampal and decreased regional prefrontal cortex volumes were also noted at a lower significance threshold. This finding has implications for pathophysiologic models of panic disorder, and provides structural evidence for the role of the brainstem in neurocircuitry models of panic disorder.

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