Groundbreaking Discovery in Panic Disorder Research at Salk Institute

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Sung Han, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and his team have made a ground-breaking discovery that could significantly impact the treatment of panic disorders. To control the symptoms of panic disorder, they found a fundamental brain circuit that depends on a neuropeptide known as Pituitary Adenylate Cystase-Activating Polypeptide (PACAP). This novel finding challenges the traditional focus on the amygdala, the brain’s fear centre, as the sole area responsible for panic responses.

The team’s studies highlight the lateral parabrachial nucleus (PBL) in the pons region of the brainstem, traditionally known as the brain’s alarm centre. This area manages basic physiological processes such as breathing and heart rate and is now also understood to play a pivotal role in panic attacks through the production of PACAP. The way PACAP interacts with its receptors in the dorsal raphe opens up new, more targeted ways to treat diseases, going beyond treatments that mainly target the brain’s serotonin system.


Kang, S. J., Kim, J.-H., Kim, D.-I., Roberts, B. Z., & Han, S. (2024). A pontomesencephalic PACAPergic pathway underlying panic-like behavioral and somatic symptoms in mice. Nature Neuroscience, 27(1), 90-101.



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