A study suggests a link between chronic stress and physiological processes that drive changes in blood flow to specific brain regions. Acute stress responses can be adaptive, but chronic stress has been tied to psychiatric disorders. Philipp Sämann and colleagues explored the interaction between acute stress and neurovascular coupling, a process that regulates blood flow to parts of the brain based on metabolic needs generated by neural activity. Using functional MRI, the researchers indirectly observed changes in blood flow in the brains of 59 healthy participants while the participants took a standard test intended to elicit psychosocial stress. The results showed that the peak latency of a parameter called the hemodynamic response function (HRF) increased in several brain regions, including temporal and prefrontal cortex, indicating changes in blood flow regulation in response to acute stress. Further analysis revealed that differences in the expression of KCNJ2, a human analog of a gene that regulates neurovascular coupling under stress in rats, was associated with HRF changes. According to the authors, understanding changes in the HRF response might aid in assessing individuals' risk for stress-related illness.
Article #18- 04340: "The brain's hemodynamic response function rapidly changes under acute psychosocial stress in association with genetic and endocrine stress response markers," by Immanuel Elbau et al.
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences