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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 196353, 9 pages
Research Article

Fear Processing in Dental Phobia during Crossmodal Symptom Provocation: An fMRI Study

1Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technische Universität Dresden, Chemnitzer Straße 46, 01187 Dresden, Germany
2Neuroimaging Center, Technische Universität Dresden, Chemnitzer Straße 46a, 01187 Dresden, Germany

Received 23 October 2013; Revised 30 January 2014; Accepted 2 February 2014; Published 11 March 2014

Academic Editor: Qiyong Gong

Copyright © 2014 Kevin Hilbert et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


While previous studies successfully identified the core neural substrates of the animal subtype of specific phobia, only few and inconsistent research is available for dental phobia. These findings might partly relate to the fact that, typically, visual stimuli were employed. The current study aimed to investigate the influence of stimulus modality on neural fear processing in dental phobia. Thirteen dental phobics (DP) and thirteen healthy controls (HC) attended a block-design functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) symptom provocation paradigm encompassing both visual and auditory stimuli. Drill sounds and matched neutral sinus tones served as auditory stimuli and dentist scenes and matched neutral videos as visual stimuli. Group comparisons showed increased activation in the insula, anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and thalamus in DP compared to HC during auditory but not visual stimulation. On the contrary, no differential autonomic reactions were observed in DP. Present results are largely comparable to brain areas identified in animal phobia, but also point towards a potential downregulation of autonomic outflow by neural fear circuits in this disorder. Findings enlarge our knowledge about neural correlates of dental phobia and may help to understand the neural underpinnings of the clinical and physiological characteristics of the disorder.