Nonhomogeneous results in place learning among panic disorder patients with agoraphobia

Alessandra Gorini*, Koen Schruers, Giuseppe Riva, Eric Griez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Patients affected by panic disorder with agoraphobia (PDA) often suffer from visuo-spatial disturbances. In the present study, we tested the place-learning abilities in a sample of 31 PDA patients compared to 31 healthy controls (CTR) using the computer-generated arena (C-G Arena), a desktop-based computer program developed at the University of Arizona (Jacobs et al 1997, for further detail about the program, see to arg/data.html). Subjects were asked to search the computer-generated space, over several trials, for the location of a hidden target. Results showed that control subjects rapidly learned to locate the invisible target and consistently returned to it, while PDA patients were divided in two subgroups: some of them (PDA-A) were as good as controls in place learning, while some others (PDA-B) were unable to learn the correct strategies to find the target. Further analyses revealed that PDA-A patients were significantly younger and affected by panic disorder from less time than PDA-B, indicating that age and duration of illness can be critical factors that influence the place-learning abilities. The existence of two different subgroups of PDA patients who differ in their spatial orientation abilities could provide new insight into the mechanisms of panic and open new perspectives in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of this diffuse and disabling disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-305
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2010


  • Spatial orientation
  • Place learning in virtual space
  • Computer-generated arena


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