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December 2006

Panic Attacks in an Individual With Bilateral Selective Lesions of the Amygdala

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

Arch Neurol. 2006;63(12):1798-1801. doi:10.1001/archneur.63.12.1798

Objective  To describe the unique case of a patient with panic attacks and bilateral selective amygdala lesions due to Urbach-Wiethe disease.

Design  Case report.

Setting  Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, Medical University of Vienna.

Patient  A 38-year-old man with Urbach-Wiethe disease developed spontaneous panic attacks and depressive mood, which ceased after antidepressive treatment.

Interventions  Video electroencephalography monitoring, magnetic resonance imaging, and neuropsychological testing.

Results  Extended video electroencephalography monitoring excluded an epileptic etiology of the panic attacks. Results of cranial magnetic resonance imaging showed bilateral selective calcifications of the whole amygdaloid complex. Neuropsychological testing revealed selective memory impairment of autobiographic episodes with preserved memory for autobiographic facts.

Conclusions  Our findings indicate that the occurrence of panic attacks does not critically depend on the integrity of the amygdala. Furthermore, the neuropsychological findings in our patient suggest that the amygdala represents an essential neural substrate for the processing of episodic autobiographic memories.