The effect of panic disorder versus anxiety sensitivity on event-related potentials during anticipation of threat

Elizabeth S. Stevens, Anna Weinberg, Brady D. Nelson, Emily E.E. Meissel, Stewart A Shankman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Attention-related abnormalities are key components of the abnormal defensive responding observed in panic disorder (PD). Although behavioral studies have found aberrant attentional biases towards threat in PD, psychophysiological studies have been mixed. Predictability of threat, an important feature of threat processing, may have contributed to these mixed findings. Additionally, anxiety sensitivity, a dimensional trait associated with PD, may yield stronger associations with cognitive processes than categorical diagnoses of PD. In this study, 171 participants with PD and/or depression and healthy controls completed a task that differentiated anticipation of predictable vs. unpredictable shocks, while startle eyeblink and event-related potentials (ERPs [N100, P300]) were recorded. In all participants, relative to the control condition, probe N100 was enhanced to both predictable and unpredictable threat, whereas P300 suppression was unique to predictable threat. Probe N100, but not P300, was associated with startle eyeblink during both threatening conditions, and was strongest for unpredictable threat. PD was not associated with ERPs, but anxiety sensitivity (physical concerns) was positively associated with probe N100 (indicating reduced responding) in the unpredictable condition independent of PD diagnosis. Vulnerability to panic-related psychopathology may be characterized by aberrant early processing of threat, which may be especially evident during anticipation of unpredictable threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Attention
  • Event-related potentials
  • Panic disorder
  • Predictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of panic disorder versus anxiety sensitivity on event-related potentials during anticipation of threat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this