Emotional response may predict how the body responds to stress

February 17, 2011, Elsevier

Your emotional response to challenging situations could predict how your body responds to stress, according to research published this month in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

"People who reported high levels of anger and anxiety after performing a laboratory-based stress task showed greater increases in a marker of , than those who remained relatively calm," said Dr Judith Carroll, who conducted the study at the University of Pittsburgh. "This could help explain why some people with high levels of stress experience ," she added.

The investigators asked healthy middle-aged individuals to complete a speech in the laboratory in front of video camera and a panel of judges. During the speech, they monitored the physical responses to the task and then afterwards asked them about the emotions that they had experienced.

"Most people show increases in and blood pressure when they complete a ," explained Dr Carroll, "but some also show increases in a circulating marker of inflammation known as interleukin-6. Our study shows that the people who have the biggest increases in this marker are the ones who show the greatest emotional responses to the task."

"Our results raise the possibility that individuals who become angry or anxious when confronting relatively minor challenges in their lives are prone to increases in inflammation," explained lead author Dr Anna Marsland, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh. "Over time, this may render these emotionally-reactive individuals more vulnerable to , such as ," she said.

The research, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, is part of a burgeoning field, known as Psychoneuroimmunology, which investigates the interactions between psychological processes and health. "This paper addresses a key question in psychoneuroimmunology – what explains individual differences in the inflammatory response to stress," said Dr Margaret Kemeny, a Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. "These findings suggest that the specific nature of the to the task may be a key predictive factor and set the stage for future work defining these pathways and addressing their clinical implications," she added.

More information: The article is "Negative affective responses to a speech task predict changes in interleukin (IL)-6" by Judith E. Carroll, Carissa A. Low, Aric A. Prather, Sheldon Cohen, Jacqueline M. Fury, Diana C. Ross and Anna L. Marsland. Please see the article for the authors' affiliations and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interest. The article appears in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 25, Number 2 (February 2011), published by Elsevier.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

We start caring about our reputations as early as kindergarten

March 20, 2018
Kindergarteners don't use social media, but they do care about their public image. Research suggests that by the time kids go to elementary school, they're thinking critically about their reputation. In a Review published ...

We can read each other's emotions from surprisingly tiny changes in facial color, study finds

March 19, 2018
Our faces broadcast our feelings in living color—even when we don't move a muscle.

Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

March 19, 2018
Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.