Kent A. Koehn

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. M. Michele Burnette

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study compared physiological and psychological measures between 9 subjects meeting the DSM-III-R criteria for panic disorder (PD) and 9 control subjects to identify psychophysiological differences that might be relevant to the etiology and maintenance of panic attacks. The subjects were assessed through a number of self-report measures and across three laboratory sessions involving five experimental conditions: baseline, role play, relaxation, mental arithmetic, and cold pressor. We measured electrodermal (EDG) and electro-myographic activity (EMG), heart rate (HR), and blood volume pulse (BVP) in terms of absolute values, reactivity, and habituation. Both groups were also assessed in their ability to accurately estimate changes in HR and EMG. The results indicated that PD subjects endorsed significantly greater numbers of psychological symptoms and demonstrated greater EDG and BVP levels across all experimental conditions with the differences being significant during the baseline and relaxation tasks. The PD group did not differ from the control group in physiological reactivity nor within-task habituation. The PD group consistently evidenced EDG sensitization versus habituation among the control group across the repeated assessment sessions. Neither group was accurate in estimating EMG and HR changes but the PD group made greater numbers of errors in overestimating EMG change.