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Biol Psychol. 2012 Sep;91(1):8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.03.014. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Airway constriction in asthma during sustained emotional stimulation with films.

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Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75205, USA.



Individuals with asthma have been shown to respond to unpleasant stimuli with bronchoconstriction, but little is known about the time course of responding during sustained emotional stimulation and whether it varies with patients' experience.


To examine the time course of oscillatory resistance (R(os)) during emotionally evocative films in 15 asthma patients and 14 healthy controls.


Participants viewed unpleasant, surgery, and neutral films, each ranging 3-5min in duration. R(os) and the respiratory pattern (respiration rate, tidal volume, minute ventilation) were monitored continuously. Following each film, participants rated their affective response and symptoms. The time course of R(os) during films was explored using multilevel modeling.


Compared to neutral film sequences, unpleasant films (including those with surgery scenes) elicited a uniform pattern of initial increases in R(os) with peaks within the first 1-2min, followed by a gradual decline. Increases were more pronounced in asthma and during surgery films. Including additional respiratory parameters as time-varying covariates did not affect the temporal course of R(os) change. The rate of decline in R(os) (after the initial increase) was less in participants who experienced greater arousal and in patients who reported more shortness of breath. Patients more susceptible to psychological triggers in daily life showed slower rates of decline in R(os).


The temporal course of bronchoconstriction to unpleasant stimulation is highly uniform in asthma, with strong constriction in early stages of stimulation. More sustained constriction in emotion-induced asthma could be a risk factor for developing asthma exacerbation in daily life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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