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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Feb;25(2):232-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.09.024. Epub 2010 Oct 1.

Negative affective responses to a speech task predict changes in interleukin (IL)-6.

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Behavioral Immunology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, USA.


Laboratory studies show that individuals differ appreciably in the magnitude of their inflammatory responses to acute psychological stress. These individual differences are poorly understood, yet may contribute to variation in stress-associated disease vulnerability. The present study examined the possibility that affective responses to acute stress contribute to these differences. For this purpose, 102 relatively-healthy community volunteers (mean age 50 years; 60% female; 91.2% white) performed an acute stress protocol and measures of affective state and serum levels of the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin (IL)-6 were collected at the end of a 30-min resting baseline, a 5-min evaluative public speaking task, and a 30-min recovery period. Results of regression analyses, controlling for age, race, gender, menopausal status, and body mass index, revealed a positive association of task-related increases in anger and anxiety with increases in IL-6 (R² change = .08, p = .004; R² change = .08, p = .005, respectively). Further examination showed that these affective responses to the task were independent predictors of change in IL-6. Cardiovascular reactivity to the task did not explain the association. These results suggest that individuals who exhibit angry or anxious responses to acute challenge are more vulnerable to stress-related increases in markers of systemic inflammation, possibly rendering them more susceptible to inflammatory disease.

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