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Stress Management

New Research Finds the Missing Link Between Our Hearts and Our Heads


Most people believe that stress plays a role in heart disease. 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, a new study has found.

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 was published in Psychophysiology. 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.

For more information visit http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0048-5772


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