Panic disorder (PD) is associated with anticipatory anxiety, a sustained threat response that appears to be related to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Individuals with panic disorder may demonstrate significant differences in causal connectivity of the BNST in comparison to healthy controls. To test this hypothesis, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to identify aberrant causal connectivity of the BNST in PD patients. 19 PD patients and 18 healthy controls (HC) matched for gender, age and education were included. Granger causality analysis (GCA) utilizing the BNST as a seed region was used to investigate changes in directional connectivity. Relative to healthy controls, PD patients displayed abnormal directional connectivity of the BNST including enhanced causal connectivity between the left parahippocampal gyrus and left BNST, the right insula and the right BNST, the left BNST and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and right BNST to the left and right dlPFC. Furthermore, PD patients displayed weakened causal connectivity between the right dlPFC and the left BNST, the left dlPFC and the right BNST, the left BNST and the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), right insula, right fusiform, and right BNST to the right insula. The results suggest that PD strongly correlates with increased causal connectivity between emotional processing regions and the BNST and enhanced causal connectivity between the BNST and cognitive control regions.
Keywords: Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; Granger causality analysis; Panic disorder; Resting-state fMRI.