Introduction: The neurobiological mechanisms behind panic disorder with agoraphobia (PD/AG) are not completely explored. The functional A/T single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs324981 in the neuropeptide S receptor gene (NPSR1) has repeatedly been associated with panic disorder and might partly drive function respectively dysfunction of the neural "fear network". We aimed to investigate whether the NPSR1 T risk allele was associated with malfunctioning in a fronto-limbic network during the anticipation and perception of agoraphobia-specific stimuli.
Method: 121 patients with PD/AG and 77 healthy controls (HC) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) using the disorder specific "Westphal-Paradigm". It consists of neutral and agoraphobia-specific pictures, half of the pictures were cued to induce anticipatory anxiety.
Results: Risk allele carriers showed significantly higher amygdala activation during the perception of agoraphobia-specific stimuli than A/A homozygotes. A linear group x genotype interaction during the perception of agoraphobia-specific stimuli showed a strong trend towards significance. Patients with the one or two T alleles displayed the highest and HC with the A/A genotype the lowest activation in the inferior orbitofrontal cortex (iOFC).
Discussion: The study demonstrates an association of the NPSR1rs324981 genotype and the perception of agoraphobia-specific stimuli. These results support the assumption of a fronto-limbic dysfunction as an intermediate phenotype of PD/AG.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01323556.
Keywords: Agoraphobia; Imaging genetics; NPSR1; Panic disorder; Westphal-Paradigm; fMRI.
Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.