Public Release:  Mental stress may lead to heart disease

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Most people believe that stress plays a role in heart disease. A study published in the latest issue of Psychophysiology finds that large rises in blood pressure during mental stress are associated with higher levels of activity in the regions of the brain associated with experiencing negative emotions and generating physiological responses in the rest of the body. The research suggests that exaggerated activity in the cingulate cortex during mental stress may generate excessive rises in blood pressure that may place some individuals at a greater risk for heart disease.

Most of what is known about the brain and its links to stress and heart disease has been taken from research on animals. This study on humans used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI ), a non-invasive technique for imaging brain activity. While they were inside an MRI scanner, twenty healthy men and women performed a computer task to create mental stress that, consequently, increased their blood pressure. This allowed the researchers to correlate simultaneous changes in blood pressure and brain activity during stress. This study is published in the current issue of Psychophysiology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the full article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Psychophysiology reports on new theoretical, empirical and methodological advances in: psychology and psychiatry, cognitive science, cognitive and affective neuroscience, social science, health science and behavioral medicine, and biomedical engineering. It is published on behalf of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

Lead author Peter Gianaros is an Assistant Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He has published on the physiology of stress in several scientific journals.

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Dr. Gianaros is available for media questions and interviews. Please contact Jocelyn Uhl Duffy at the University of Pittsburgh press office to coordinate an interview. Email: uhljh@upmc.edu

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