Women process threats and aggressive stimuli different than men, differences in the activation of brain regions participating in the fear circuitry. This might be an important factor contributing to the increased likelihood of women to develop panic disorder compared to men. If in women activation differs in parts of the fear circuitry, this could explain the gender difference in prevalence of the panic disorder.
Fear Circuitry in the Brain
dysfunctional fear network centered in the amygdala and projecting to the thalamus, hypothalamus, brainstem, and prefrontal cortical areas in Panic Disorder patients
In a recent study 20 patients with panic disorder (12 women and 8 men) were shown images depicting fearful, angry, happy, and neutral expressions of 10 individuals (5 males and 5 females) during functional magnetic resonance imaging.
As hypothesized, women showed significantly stronger activation during the processing of threat-related stimuli in a large number of cortical and subcortical areas related to the established fear circuitry
These differences to a lesser extend are also present in healthy subjects. In panic disorder these gender-related activation differences in several neural structures seem to increase compared to healthy subjects.
Patricia Ohrmann, M.D.,, Anya Pedersen, Ph.D., Miriam Braun, M.D.,, Jochen Bauer, M.Sc.,, Harald Kugel, Ph.D.,, Anette Kersting, M.D.,, Katharina Domschke, M.D.,, Jurgen Deckert, M.D.,, & Thomas Suslow, Ph.D. (2010). EFFECT OF GENDER ON PROCESSING
THREAT-RELATED STIMULI IN PATIENTS
WITH PANIC DISORDER: SEX DOES MATTER Depression & Anxiety : 10.1002/da.20721