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Psychosomatic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000073
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Article Summaries for May 2014 Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 76, Issue 4

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Wu et al. (pages 252–256) examined the relationship of depression to stress hormones in women with Stage II or Stage III breast cancer. Cortisol was negatively related to depressive symptoms during the first 4 months after diagnosis and surgery, but this effect faded over time. Other stress hormones (adrenocorticotropic hormone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) were not associated with depressive symptoms. These results suggest that cortisol may influence the magnitude of depressive symptoms after cancer surgery and during cancer treatment.

In an accompanying editorial, Low and Bovbjerg (pages 248–251) outline several regulatory pathways by which cortisol, inflammatory processes, and depressive symptoms may interact in the context of cancer. This editorial highlights biobehavioral interactions that play critical roles in tumor progression.

Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) programs have shown promise as interventions to reduce symptoms of anxiety and mood disturbance in people with various types and stages of cancer. Because many people are unable to access MBCR programs in person, the eCALM trial was designed to assess the impact of an online adaptation. The study used a randomized wait-list controlled design. The program involved 8 weeks of training in mindfulness mediation and gentle yoga along with group discussion. Zernicke et al. (pages 257–267) report significant improvements in stress symptoms, mood disturbance, and sense of spirituality in MBCR participants compared with participants in the control group.

Endothelial dysfunction may partially explain the adverse cardiovascular outcomes in major depression. Bouzinova et al. (pages 268–276) used a chronic mild stress (CMS) protocol to study endothelial dysfunction in rats. In this model, some rats develop depression-like symptoms (anhedonia), whereas others are stress-resilient. The study showed that mesenteric small arteries from anhedonic rats are less sensitive to the vasodilator action of acetylcholine than arteries from nonstressed and resilient rats. The researchers attribute the finding to differences in the relative contribution of three major endothelium-dependent relaxing pathways (nitric oxide, cyclooxygenase product(s), and endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization) in resistance arteries in rats susceptible to stress.

Social isolation is known to have negative consequences for emotional states. Environmental enrichment, including cognitive stimulation and opportunities for physical exercise, may be an effective treatment strategy for the consequences of social isolation. In a rodent model (prairie vole), Grippo et al. (pages 277–284) demonstrated that environmental enrichment prevents and remediates depressive-relevant and anxiety-relevant behavioral effects of social isolation. These findings provide a foundation for exploring novel treatment strategies for the emotional consequences of social isolation.

Chen et al. (pages 285–291) investigated the association between herpes zoster and the development of depressive disorder. Adults with a diagnosis of herpes zoster and without a psychiatric history were enrolled in 2000 and compared with age- and sex-matched controls. During the 10-year follow-up period, participants with herpes zoster had a higher incidence of developing major depressive disorder (2.2% versus 1.4%, p = .018) and any type of depressive disorder (4.3% versus 3.2%, p = .020) than the control group.

Military personnel deployed to combat zones are at risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI). In a cross-sectional study of active-duty Marines, Minassian et al. (pages 292–301) found PTSD and previous deployments were associated with lower heart rate variability (HRV) after accounting for TBI; depression did not affect the PTSD-HRV relationship. The research provides novel information about the role of autonomic nervous system (ANS) functions in stress-related conditions and whether ANS functions emerge in tandem with mental health–related consequences of combat exposure.

Goodin et al. (pages 302–310) examined relationships among ethnicity, temporal summation of pain (as an index of pain facilitation), and clinical pain severity in a sample of adults 45 years and older with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. The researchers tested whether temporal summation of pain assessed in a laboratory setting prospectively predicted the future clinical pain experiences of African American and non-Hispanic adults. Temporal summation of pain predicted greater ratings of average and worst clinical pain for non-Hispanic white adults but not African American adults during four weekly telephone follow-up surveys.

There is no standardized assessment tool for evaluating hostility in epidemiological studies. Wong et al. (pages 311–317) compared nine subscales of the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale as predictors of mortality in 656 outpatients with stable coronary heart disease. Four of the subscales were predictive of mortality in age-adjusted analyses, but only one subscale (the 7-item Williams subscale) was predictive of mortality in multivariable analyses. Information on which subscales of the CMHS are most strongly predictive of adverse CV outcomes may be useful for future researchers who are deciding how best to measure hostility in epidemiological studies.

Copyright © 2014 by American Psychosomatic Society

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