Researchers found that a particular pattern of brain activity during
frustrating and stressful situations was tied to a
larger-than-expected increase in blood pressure.
Surges in blood pressure during stressful situations can predict
future cardiovascular problems, senior author Peter Gianaros of the
University of Pittsburgh told Reuters Health.
"We're trying to basically decode brain patterns that can tell us
about a personís sensitivity to stress that might be connected with
their risk of heart disease," he said.
For the new study, Gianaros and colleagues recruited 157 men and 153
women, ages 30 to 51, and had them undergo brain scans while hooked
up to blood pressure and heart rate monitors. The participants also
completed tasks designed to frustrate.
"We made the tasks purposely difficult so they made a lot of
errors," said Gianaros. "Then we reminded them they were making
Before the tests began, participants' average blood pressure was
around 121/73 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), which is about normal.
"For most people, their blood pressure and heart rate went up a
little bit, but what weíre interested in is the person-to-person
differences," Gianaros said.
For example, did blood pressure and heart rate increase more in some
people than in others?
For some people, specific brain activity patterns did predict
cardiovascular responses. But brain activity patterns could only
account for about 10 percent of the difference between individual
responses, the authors report in the Journal of the American Heart
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"A lot of the person-to-person differences were unaccounted for by
what we were able to do," said Gianaros, who called the study a
"proof of concept."
The study also can't prove that a specific brain activity pattern
causes people to have larger increases in blood pressure or heart
rate, said Dr. Larry Goldstein, who chairs the department of
neurology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
"Itís obviously quite complicated, but gaining these insights can
hopefully lead to testable questions and approaches targeting
cardiovascular events," said Goldstein, who wasn't involved in the
Gianaros said more results are expected from this study, because the
research team is still monitoring the participants.
"(We're going to) test whether brain activity can predict a personís
change in heart disease risk over multiple years," he said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2xtB4WX Journal of the American Heart
Association, online August 23, 2017.
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