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Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Jan;59:93-102. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.08.013. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Psychophysiological correlates of systemic inflammation in black and white men.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA; Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Inflammation plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and levels of circulating inflammatory markers are associated with future CVD risk. However, the physiological mechanisms that control systemic levels of circulating inflammatory markers are not well understood. Here, we explore possible autonomic nervous system mechanisms by testing whether resting and stressor-evoked cardiovascular responses are associated with two markers of systemic inflammation: interleukin (IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP). Subjects were 159 black and 129 white men (M=33.0years) who completed a laboratory protocol including an anger recall speech task. Electrocardiography and impedance cardiography data were collected during a resting baseline, the speech task, and a final recovery period. Hierarchical regressions tested whether resting or stressor-evoked levels of heart rate (HR), high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), pre-ejection period (PEP), and pulse transit time (PTT) were associated with CRP or IL-6. Higher resting HR was associated with higher CRP (β=0.19, p=0.003) and IL-6 (β=0.13, p<0.05). Similarly, shorter resting PTT was associated with higher CRP (β=-0.21, p<0.001) and IL-6 (β=-0.14, p=0.02). In addition, greater stressor-evoked decreases in HF-HRV were associated with higher CRP (β=-0.14, p=0.01). Associations were independent of age, race, body mass index (BMI), smoking behavior, and socioeconomic status. Resting HF-HRV and PEP were also associated with CRP and IL-6, but associations were not significant after controlling for BMI and smoking behavior. These findings indicate that resting HR and PTT, as well stressor-evoked HF-HRV reactivity, are associated with systemic inflammation. Our results suggest that both tonic and stressor-evoked sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity may contribute to regulation of systemic inflammation.


Cardiovascular; Inflammation; Psychophysiology; Stress reactivity

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