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Hypertension. 2007 Jan;49(1):134-40. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Heightened functional neural activation to psychological stress covaries with exaggerated blood pressure reactivity.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. gianarospj@upmc.edu

Abstract

Individuals who show exaggerated blood pressure reactions to psychological stressors are at increased risk for hypertension, atherosclerosis, and stroke. We tested whether individuals who show exaggerated stressor-induced blood pressure reactivity also show heightened stressor-induced neural activation in brain areas involved in controlling the cardiovascular system. In a functional MRI study, 46 postmenopausal women (mean age: 68.04; SD: 1.35 years) performed a standardized Stroop color-word interference task that served as a stressor to increase blood pressure. Across individuals, a larger task-induced rise in blood pressure covaried with heightened and correlated patterns of activation in brain areas implicated previously in stress-related cardiovascular control: the perigenual and posterior cingulate cortex, bilateral prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, and cerebellum. Entered as a set in hierarchical regression analyses, activation values in these brain areas uniquely predicted the magnitude of task-induced changes in systolic (DeltaR(2)=0.54; P<0.001) and diastolic (DeltaR(2)=0.27; P<0.05) blood pressure after statistical control for task accuracy and subjective reports of task stress. Heightened stressor-induced activation of cingulate, prefrontal, insular, and cerebellar brain areas may represent a functional neural phenotype that characterizes individuals who are prone to show exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity.

PMID:
17101844
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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