COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARIES OF UPPSALA DISSERTATIONS FROM THE FACULTY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES SOCIAL PHOBIA

Diploma

ABSTRACT

The present thesis investigated family history and neurobiology of social phobia. Social phobia is a disabling disorder characterized by a marked fear of scrutiny in a variety of social situations. By using a validated questionnaire, study I related family history of excessive social anxiety to social phobia and avoidant personality disorder in epidemiologically identified probands in the Swedish general population. A two- to threefold increased relative risk of social anxiety was observed for both diagnostic groups. Thus, having an affected family member is associated with approximately a doubled risk for both social phobia and avoidant personality disorder.

The neurobiological studies explored situational and anticipatory elicited anxiety by means of

positron emission tomography and 15O-water. Study II examined the functional neuroanatomy of social anxiety provocation in social phobics and a healthy comparison group during a public speaking task. Social phobia symptomatology was associated with higher neural activity in the amygdaloid complex, i.e. “the alarm system” of the brain, and lower activity in the prefrontal cortex. Study III examined the neural correlates of anxiety elicited by the anticipation of public speaking in individuals with social phobia. Anticipatory anxiety was accompanied by enhanced regional cerebral blood flow in the dorsolateral prefrontal and inferior temporal cortices as well as in the amygdaloid-hippocampal region. Brain blood flow was lower in the temporal pole and in the cerebellum. These results suggest that social phobia has a neuroanatomical basis in a highly sensitive fear network centered in the amygdaloid-hippocampal region and encompassing the prefrontal cortex.