Neurobiology of panic and pH chemosensation in the brain.
Panic disorder is a common and disabling illness for which treatments are too frequently ineffective. Greater knowledge of the underlying biology could aid the discovery of better therapies. Although panic attacks occur unpredictably, the ability to provoke them in the laboratory with challenge protocols provides an opportunity for crucial insight into the neurobiology of panic. Two of the most well-studied panic provocation challenges are CO(2) inhalation and lactate infusion. Although it remains unclear how these challenges provoke panic animal models of CO(2) and lactate action are beginning to emerge, and offer unprecedented opportunities to probe the molecules and circuits underlying panic attacks. Both CO(2) and lactate alter pH balance and may generate acidosis that can influence neuron function through a growing list of pH-sensitive receptors. These observations suggest that a key to better understanding of panic disorder may He in more knowledge of brain pH regulation and pH-sensitive receptors.