Imaging neuroscience studies of stressful experiences and cardiovascular disease risk.
Psychological stress, negative emotions, and socioeconomic disadvantage all confer risk for poor physical health. But how is this possible? What are the mechanistic pathways by which these psychological and social factors can come to impact our physical health? Our research interests focus on these questions. In one line of research, we focus on characterizing the human brain systems that both process psychological stressors and control autonomic nervous system and cardiovascular responses to these stressors. The reason for this focus is that autonomic and cardiovascular stress responses relate to a person¹s future risk for developing hypertension, having a myocardial infarction, and other poor physical health outcomes. In this way, we are attempting to map the brain systems that link specific kinds of stress responses to particular health outcomes. In another line of research, we focus on characterizing the interplay between brain systems for emotion and for regulating aspects of peripheral physiology tied to physical and mental health, especially aspects of immune system biology. Finally, people of disadvantaged socioeconomic status are a greater risk for a wide range of chronic illnesses compared with their more advantaged counterparts. But, we know very little about the neurobiological mechanisms by which socioeconomic disadvantage confers this risk. And we know even less about how the brain might be adversely affected by biological, behavioral, and environmental risk factors for chronic illnesses that track a socioeconomic gradient. Accordingly, we are integrating multimodal neuroimaging research methods with behavioral medicine and epidemiological approaches to better understand the role of the brain in linking socioeconomic disadvantage to health.
Banihashemi, L., Sheu, L.K., Gianaros, P.J. Childhood physical abuse predicts stressor-evoked activity within central visceral control regions. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, (in press).
Gianaros, P.J., Marsland, A.L., Kuan, D. C-H., Jennings, J.R., Sheu, L.K., Hariri, A.R., Gross, J.J., Manuck, S.B. An inflammatory pathway links atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk to neural activity evoked by the cognitive regulation of emotion. Biological Psychiatry, 75, 738-45, 2014.
Onyewuenyi, I.C., Christie, I.C., Erickson, K.I., Sheu, L.K., Gianaros, P.J. Basal ganglia morphology links the metabolic syndrome and depressive symptoms. Physiology and Behavior, 123, 214-22., 2014
Gianaros, P.J., Hackman, D. Contributions of neuroscience to the study of socioeconomic health disparities. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75, 624-31, 2013.
Gianaros, P.J., Marsland, A.L., Sheu, L.K., Erickson, K.I., Verstynen, T.D. Inflammatory pathways link socioeconomic inequalities to white matter architecture. Cerebral Cortex, 23, 2058-2071, 2013.
Gianaros, P.J., Onyewuenyi, I.C., Sheu, L.K., Christie, I.C., Critchley, H.D. Brain systems for baroreflex suppression during stress in humans. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 1700-1716, 2012.