Patients with myocardial infarction (MI) are predisposed to challenges including increased risk of depression and poor quality of life. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Moludi et al. found that probiotic supplementation has beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, quality of life, and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in patients after MI. These findings suggest the potential interrelationship of inflammation and oxidative stress with depression symptoms in patients and provide preliminary evidence that the gut microbiome is a potential novel target for interventions in patients with comorbid depression and coronary artery disease.
Endothelial cell injury, an earlypathogenic process underlying atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, can be detected as early as childhood or adolescence. Sleep duration may affect endothelial cell health. Alcántara et al. examined sleep duration and endothelial cell health in a sample of youth. Longer sleep duration was associated with lower circulating levels of microparticles indicative of endothelial cell injury. Given the high prevalence of short sleep duration during adolescence and the increased cardiovascular health risks associated with short sleep duration, preventive interventions that target sleep extension or increasing sleep duration among youth may confer public health benefits across the life course.
Sleep disruption contributes to pathophysiology in mental disorders, particularly bipolar illness, but the biobehavioral mechanisms of this relationship are insufficiently understood. Casement et al. evaluated sleep duration, timing, and variability as prospective predictors of parasympathetic nervous system activity during rest and social stress in adolescents with bipolar disorder. Both shorter and longer sleep durations outside the 6–7 hours per night range, which are common in episodes of mood disorder, were associated with lower parasympathetic nervous system activity (HF-HRV) and also with indicators of dysregulated parasympathetic responses to social stress in adolescents with bipolar disorder. Obtaining regular sleep of moderate duration may benefit responses to stress in bipolar youth.
Previous research shows an association between burnout symptoms and reduced vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV). Wekenborg et al. focused on HRV and the subdimension of emotional exhaustion, which remains inadequately distinguished from depressive symptoms. They found evidence that HRV is associated with changes in burnout symptoms independent of depressive symptoms. HRV may be a useful index to further investigate bio-physiological mechanisms by which burnout symptoms, especially emotional exhaustion, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Neuroticism is associated with poor health outcomes, but its role in the accumulation of health deficits in old age, as measured with the frailty index, is largely unknown. Daníelsdóttir et al. explored associations between neuroticism and frailty cross-sectionally and longitudinally, and also investigated the contribution of shared genetic influences. Neuroticism in midlife predicted frailty in late life. Both environmental and genetic influences, including neuroticism-associated common genetic variants, may contribute to the longitudinal association between neuroticism and frailty.
Stephan et al. examined the relation between personality and hearing acuity in two large national samples. In both samples, higher conscientiousness and openness were associated with better hearing acuity and lower risk of impairment, whereas neuroticism was associated with a higher risk of impairment. The findings broaden knowledge on psychological factors associated with increased risk and mitigating factors for age-related hearing impairment.
Despite there being a greater susceptibility for stress-induced eating in overweight and obese adolescents, findings from Nagy et al. provide evidence that these adolescents decrease their caloric intake, particularly of high-fat foods, in response to an acute laboratory stressor. High cortisol reactors showed a decreased calorie consumption. Further research is needed to understand the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying stress-induced food intake patterns.
In the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), women aged 42 to 52 rated how stressful and rewarding they found each of four social roles: mother, caregiver, employee, and spouse. Stewart et al. tested whether ever reporting a stressful role in these domains was related to subclinical cardiovascular disease markers. The rating of any social role as “extremely” or “quite a bit” stressful was related to greater carotid intima-media thickness about 10 years later. Stressful roles were not predictive of other markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease.
Chronic psychosocial stressors (e.g., social isolation, divorce) may affect cancer survival, but their role in cancer development, especially ovarian cancer, is less understood. Trudel-Fitzgerald et al. investigated whether social integration and marital status were associated with ovarian cancer risk. Social isolation (compared to integration) and widowhood (as opposed to marriage/partnership) were associated with increased ovarian cancer risk, particularly when experienced a decade before diagnosis or when sustained over time. These results highlight the importance of long follow-up periods and chronic psychosocial exposures when studying cancer determinants.
Placebo effects can be elicited by behavioral conditioning of somatic symptoms. Meeuwis et al. examined whether conditioning of the antipruritic properties of antihistamine could reduce histamine-induced itch, and whether it could be effective when participants are informed about the conditioning procedure. The results show that, though marginally lower itch was reported in the conditioned groups, overall no differences were found compared to the control groups.
Acute pain has an evolutionary role in the detection of physical harm and the response to it. In some cases, however, acute pain can impair function and lead to other morbidities. Chronic pain, meanwhile, can present as a condition that significantly interferes with daily living. In a review, Urien and Wang discuss how pain signals reach important cortical regions and how these regions in turn project to subcortical areas of the brain to exert profound modulation of the pain experience. In addition, they discuss the clinical relevance of such top-down pain regulation mechanisms.