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Release: May 10, 2001

UI researchers invite people to take part in panic disorder study

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Health Care psychiatry researchers invite people ages 18 to 35 who have a parent or sibling with panic disorder to take part in a study to identify a trait in people who do not have the illness.

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that features panic attacks. Individuals experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety along with physical symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath and sweating. Panic disorder affects as much as three percent of the population and occurs more often in women than men.

"The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, although there is good evidence that it is in part genetically determined," said William Coryell, M.D., UI professor of psychiatry and lead investigator of the study.

Individuals ages 18 to 35 who can give a clear account of a parent or sibling who has been treated for panic disorder may be eligible to take part in the study, which will consist of one three- to four-hour visit to the UI. Compensation is available.

Participants will be interviewed and asked to complete questionnaires, give a blood sample and undergo two breathing tests. The first test will involve inhaling a low concentration of carbon dioxide for five minutes. For the second test, participants will inhale a single breath of higher concentration of carbon dioxide.

Some researchers believe that people with panic disorder may have respiratory systems that are especially sensitive to low levels of carbon dioxide.

"Our study is designed to see if this is true of persons whose parents or siblings experience panic disorder," Coryell said. "Data from our early studies suggest this is the case and we want to be able to confirm that."

If researchers do confirm this, Coryell added, then the test could be a useful tool in identifying a gene for the disorder.

For more information, call (319) 353-5475 or 1-800-634-6581, or contact the research team by e-mail at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.