Visual emotional stimulation is supposed to elicit psycho-vegetative reactions, which are similar to as the ones elicited by exposure
to actual experience. Visual stimulation paradigms have been widely used in studies on agoraphobia with and without panic disorder.
However, the applied imagery has hardly ever been disorder- and subject- specific.
have been examined. Subjects were confronted with 146 picture showing characteristic agoraphobic situations (high places, narrow
places, crowds, public transport facilities, or wide places) or pictures associated with acute physical emergency (panic) situations, which
had been pre-selected by anxiety experts. Participants were asked to rate emotional arousal induced by the respective images on the Self-
Assessment Manikin scale (SAM). Data on PDA severity (PAS) depressive symptoms (MADRS) and sociodemographic data were recorded.
Saliva cortisol levels were measured before and after exposure in a second test applying the individually mostly feared stimuli
combined with emotionally neutral pictures for every single patient.
117 of the PDA-specific images were rated significantly more fear-eliciting by patients than by healthy individuals. Sub-categorization
into agoraphobia clusters showed differential effects of clusters with regard to gender distribution, severity of PDA and cortisol secretion
In this study disorder specific and individual characteristics of agoraphobia were assessed for use in future trials applying emotional imagery.
It could be used for the differential assessment of PDA and associated neurobiological and psychological phenomena and in neuroimaging