Neural correlates of anxiety sensitivity in panic disorder: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Sara Poletti, Daniele Radaelli, Michele Cucchi, Liana Ricci, Benedetta Vai, Enrico Smeraldi, Francesco Benedetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Panic disorder has been associated with dysfunctional neuropsychological dimensions, including anxiety sensitivity. Brain-imaging studies of the neural correlates of emotional processing have identified a network of structures that constitute the neural circuitry for emotions. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and insula, which are part of this network, are also involved in the processing of threat-related stimuli. The aim of the study was to investigate if neural activity in response to emotional stimuli in the cortico-limbic network is associated to anxiety sensitivity in panic disorder. In a sample of 18 outpatients with panic disorder, we studied neural correlates of implicit emotional processing of facial affect expressions with a face-matching paradigm; correlational analyses were performed between brain activations and anxiety sensitivity. The correlational analyses performed showed a positive correlation between anxiety sensitivity and brain activity during emotional processing in regions encompassing the PFC, ACC and insula. Our data seem to confirm that anxiety sensitivity is an important component of panic disorder. Accordingly, the neural underpinnings of anxiety sensitivity could be an interesting focus for treatment and further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 30 2015


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Brain imaging
  • Insula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


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