Background Deficits in facial emotion processing is a major characteristic of patients with panic disorder. It is known that visual stimuli with different spatial frequencies take distinct neural pathways. This study investigated facial emotion processing involving stimuli presented at broad, high, and low spatial frequencies in patients with panic disorder. Methods Eighteen patients with panic disorder and 19 healthy controls were recruited. Seven event-related potential (ERP) components: (P100, N170, early posterior negativity (EPN); vertex positive potential (VPP), N250, P300; and late positive potential (LPP)) were evaluated while the participants looked at fearful and neutral facial stimuli presented at three spatial frequencies. Results When a fearful face was presented, panic disorder patients showed a significantly increased P100 amplitude in response to low spatial frequency compared to high spatial frequency; whereas healthy controls demonstrated significant broad spatial frequency dependent processing in P100 amplitude. Vertex positive potential amplitude was significantly increased in high and broad spatial frequency, compared to low spatial frequency in panic disorder. Early posterior negativity amplitude was significantly different between HSF and BSF, and between LSF and BSF processing in both groups, regardless of facial expression. Limitation The possibly confounding effects of medication could not be controlled. Conclusions During early visual processing, patients with panic disorder prefer global to detailed information. However, in later processing, panic disorder patients overuse detailed information for the perception of facial expressions. These findings suggest that unique spatial frequency-dependent facial processing could shed light on the neural pathology associated with panic disorder.
- Panic disorder
- Spatial frequency