Background: Anxiety sensitivity (AS) refers to a fear of anxiety-related sensations and is a dispositional variable especially elevated in patients with panic disorder (PD). Although several functional imaging studies of AS in patients with PD have suggested the presence of altered neural activity in paralimbic areas such as the insula, no study has investigated white matter (WM) alterations in patients with PD in relation to AS. The objective of this study was to investigate the WM correlates of AS in patients with PD.
Methods: One-hundred and twelve right-handed patients with PD and 48 healthy control (HC) subjects were enrolled in this study. The Anxiety Sensitivity Inventory-Revised (ASI-R), the Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS), the Albany Panic and Phobia Questionnaire (APPQ), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were administered. Tract-based spatial statistics were used for diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging analysis.
Results: Among the patients with PD, the ASI-R total scores were significantly correlated with the fractional anisotropy values of the WM regions near the insula, the splenium of the corpus callosum, the tapetum, the fornix/stria terminalis, the posterior limb of the internal capsule, the retrolenticular part of the internal capsule, the posterior thalamic radiation, the sagittal striatum, and the posterior corona radiata located in temporo-parieto-limbic regions and are involved in interoceptive processing (p<0.01; threshold-free cluster enhancement [TFCE]-corrected). These WM regions were also significantly correlated with the APPQ interoceptive avoidance subscale and BDI scores in patients with PD (p<0.01, TFCE-corrected). Correlation analysis among the HC subjects revealed no significant findings.
Limitations: There has been no comparative study on the structural neural correlates of AS in PD.
Conclusions: The current study suggests that the WM correlates of AS in patients with PD may be associated with the insula and the adjacent temporo-parieto-limbic WM regions, which may play important roles in interoceptive processing in the brain and in depression in PD.
Keywords: Anxiety sensitivity; Neural correlates; Neuroimaging; Panic disorder; White matter.
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