Brain activation of spider phobics towards disorder-relevant, generally disgust- and fear-inducing pictures

Neurosci Lett. 2005 Nov 4;388(1):1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2005.06.025.


The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated the fear and disgust reactivity of patients suffering from spider phobia. Ten phobics and 13 control subjects were scanned while viewing alternating blocks of phobia-relevant, generally fear-inducing, disgust-inducing and affectively neutral pictures. The patient group rated the spider pictures as being more disgust and fear evoking than the control group, and showed greater activation of the visual association cortex, the amygdalae, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the right hippocampus. Specific phobia-related activation occurred in the supplementary motor area. The patients also showed greater amygdala activation during the presentation of generally disgust- and fear-inducing pictures. This points to an elevated sensitivity to repulsive and threatening stimuli in spider phobics and implicates the amygdala as a crucial neural substrate.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Spiders*