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Concept: Acute stress reaction


We compared the impact of media vs. direct exposure on acute stress response to collective trauma. We conducted an Internet-based survey following the Boston Marathon bombings between April 29 and May 13, 2013, with representative samples of residents from Boston (n = 846), New York City (n = 941), and the remainder of the United States (n = 2,888). Acute stress symptom scores were comparable in Boston and New York [regression coefficient (b) = 0.43; SE = 1.42; 95% confidence interval (CI), -2.36, 3.23], but lower nationwide when compared with Boston (b = -2.21; SE = 1.07; 95% CI, -4.31, -0.12). Adjusting for prebombing mental health (collected prospectively), demographics, and prior collective stress exposure, six or more daily hours of bombing-related media exposure in the week after the bombings was associated with higher acute stress than direct exposure to the bombings (continuous acute stress symptom total: media exposure b = 15.61 vs. direct exposure b = 5.69). Controlling for prospectively collected prebombing television-watching habits did not change the findings. In adjusted models, direct exposure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Sandy Hook School shootings were both significantly associated with bombing-related acute stress; Superstorm Sandy exposure wasn’t. Prior exposure to similar and/or violent events may render some individuals vulnerable to the negative effects of collective traumas. Repeatedly engaging with trauma-related media content for several hours daily shortly after collective trauma may prolong acute stress experiences and promote substantial stress-related symptomatology. Mass media may become a conduit that spreads negative consequences of community trauma beyond directly affected communities.

Concepts: United States, New York City, Massachusetts, New England, Marathon, Remainder, September 11 attacks, Acute stress reaction


Stress research has progressively become more integrative in nature, seeking to unfold crucial relations between the different phenotypic levels of stress manifestations. This study sought to unravel stress-induced variations in expression of human microRNAs sampled in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and further assess their relationship with neuronal and psychological indices. We obtained blood samples from 49 healthy male participants before and three hours after performing a social stress task, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A seed-based functional connectivity (FC) analysis was conducted for the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a key area of stress regulation. Out of hundreds of microRNAs, a specific increase was identified in microRNA-29c (miR-29c) expression, corresponding with both the experience of sustained stress via self-reports, and alterations in vmPFC functional connectivity. Explicitly, miR-29c expression levels corresponded with both increased connectivity of the vmPFC with the anterior insula (aIns), and decreased connectivity of the vmPFC with the left dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Our findings further revealed that miR-29c mediates an indirect path linking enhanced vmPFC-aIns connectivity during stress with subsequent experiences of sustained stress. The correlative patterns of miR-29c expression and vmPFC FC, along with the mediating effects on subjective stress sustainment and the presumed localization of miR-29c in astrocytes, together point to an intriguing assumption; miR-29c may serve as a biomarker in the blood for stress-induced functional neural alterations reflecting regulatory processes. Such a multi-level model may hold the key for future personalized intervention in stress psychopathology.

Concepts: Nervous system, Gene, Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Regulation, PBMC, Acute stress reaction


The effect of acute stress on pain threshold and intolerance threshold are reported as producing either hypoalgesia or hyperalgesia. Yet, the contribution of individual stress reactivity in this respect has not been established. The aim was to test two pain modulation paradigms under acute stress manipulation, here for the first time, in order to study whether stress differentially affects pain modulation, and whether the effect is related to individual stress response. Participants were 31 healthy subjects. Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) and pain adaptation were measured before and after inducing an acute stress response using the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST). Subjects' stress response was evaluated with salivary cortisol, autonomic function and perceived stress and anxiety. The MIST induced a validated stress response. On a group level, stress induced reduction in CPM magnitude and increase in pain adaptation compared to baseline. These responses correlated with stress reactivity. When the group was subdivided according to stress reactivity, only high stress-responders exhibited reduced CPM whereas only low stress-responders exhibited increased pain adaptation. The results suggest that acute stress may induce opposite effects on pain modulation, depending on individual stress reactivity magnitude, with an advantage to low stress-responders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Effect, Affect, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Fight-or-flight response, Induced demand, Acute stress reaction


To assess the prevalence of symptoms of acute stress reactions (ASR) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in paediatric trainees following their involvement in child death.

Concepts: Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Stress, Acute stress reaction


The experience of driving has been suggested to be detrimental to health. One hypothesis is that each exposure elicits an acute stress response, and that repeated exposures may act as a chronic stressor.

Concepts: Anxiety, Medicine, Occupational health psychology, Stress, Fight-or-flight response, Acute accent, ACT, Acute stress reaction


The role of repeated exposure to collective trauma in explaining response to subsequent community-wide trauma is poorly understood. We examined the relationship between acute stress response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and prior direct and indirect media-based exposure to three collective traumatic events: the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, Superstorm Sandy, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Representative samples of residents of metropolitan Boston (n = 846) and New York City (n = 941) completed Internet-based surveys shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. Cumulative direct exposure and indirect exposure to prior community trauma and acute stress symptoms were assessed. Acute stress levels did not differ between Boston and New York metropolitan residents. Cumulative direct and indirect, live-media-based exposure to 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, and the Sandy Hook shooting were positively associated with acute stress responses in the covariate-adjusted model. People who experience multiple community-based traumas may be sensitized to the negative impact of subsequent events, especially in communities previously exposed to similar disasters.

Concepts: New York City, Massachusetts, Boston, Metropolitan area, New York, Philadelphia, World Trade Center, Acute stress reaction


The majority of patients with epilepsy report that seizures are sometimes triggered or provoked. Stress is the most frequently self-reported seizure-precipitant. The mechanisms underlying stress-sensitivity of seizures are currently unresolved. We hypothesized that stress-sensitivity of seizures relates to alteration of the stress response, which could affect neuronal excitability and hence trigger seizures. To study this, children with epilepsy between 6 and 17 years of age and healthy controls, with similar age, sex and intelligence, were exposed to a standardized acute psychosocial stressor (the Trier Social Stress Test for Children), during which salivary cortisol and sympathetic parameters were measured. Beforehand, the relation between stress and seizures in children with epilepsy was assessed by (i) a retrospective questionnaire; and (ii) a prospective 6-week diary on stress and seizure occurrence. Sixty-four children with epilepsy and 40 control subjects were included in the study. Of all children with epilepsy, 49% reported that seizures were precipitated by acute stress. Diary analysis showed a positive association between acute stress and seizures in 62% of children who experienced at least one seizure during the diary period. The acute social stress test was completed by 56 children with epilepsy and 37 control subjects. Children with sensitivity of seizures for acute stress, either determined by the questionnaire or by the prospective diary, showed a blunted cortisol response to stress compared with patients without acute stress-precipitated seizures and healthy controls (questionnaire-based F = 2.74, P = 0.018; diary-based F = 4.40, P = 0.007). No baseline differences in cortisol were observed, nor differences in sympathetic stress response. The relation between acute stress-sensitivity of seizures and the cortisol response to stress remained significant in multivariable analysis (β = -0.30, P = 0.03). Other variables associated with the acute stress response were the number of anti-epileptic drugs (β = -0.27, P = 0.05) and sleep quality (β = 0.30, P = 0.03). In conclusion, we show that children with acute stress-sensitive seizures have a decreased cortisol response to stress. These results support our hypothesis that stress-sensitivity of seizures is associated with alterations of the stress response, thereby providing a first step in unravelling the mechanisms behind the seizure-precipitating effects of stress. Increased knowledge of the relation between stress and seizures in childhood epilepsy might benefit our understanding of the fundamental processes underlying epilepsy and ictogenesis in general, and provide valuable clues to direct the development of new therapeutic strategies for epilepsy.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Status epilepticus, Myoclonus, Acute accent, Acute stress reaction


Although youths in many countries have been exposed to terrorism, few studies have examined early risk and protective factors for the subsequent development of mental health problems.

Concepts: Mental disorder, Acute stress reaction


The present study aimed to examine associations between the quality of the coach-athlete relationship and athlete exhaustion by assessing physiological and cognitive consequences. Male and female athletes (N = 82) representing seven teams across four different sports, participated in a quasi-experimental study measuring physical performance on a 5-meter multiple shuttle test, followed by a Stroop test to assess cognitive performance. Participants provided saliva samples measuring cortisol as a biomarker of acute stress response and completed questionnaires measuring exhaustion, and coach-athlete relationship quality. Structural equation modelling revealed a positive relationship between the quality of the coach-athlete relationship and Stroop performance, and negative relationships between the quality of the coach-athlete relationship and cortisol responses to high-intensity exercise, cognitive testing, and exhaustion. The study supports previous research on socio-cognitive correlates of athlete exhaustion by highlighting associations with the quality of the coach-athlete relationship.

Concepts: Psychology, Psychometrics, Perception, Test method, Stress, Cognitive tests, Acute stress reaction


The acute stress response functions to prioritize behavioural and physiological processes that maximize survival in the face of immediate threat. There is variation between individuals in the strength of the adult stress response that is of interest in both evolutionary biology and medicine. Age is an established source of this variation-stress responsiveness diminishes with increasing age in a range of species-but unexplained variation remains. Since individuals of the same chronological age may differ markedly in their pace of biological ageing, we asked whether biological age-measured here via erythrocyte telomere length-predicts variation in stress responsiveness in adult animals of the same chronological age. We studied two cohorts of European starlings in which we had previously manipulated the rate of biological ageing by experimentally altering the competition experienced by chicks in the fortnight following hatching. We predicted that individuals with greater developmental telomere attrition, and hence greater biological age, would show an attenuated corticosterone (CORT) response to an acute stressor when tested as adults. In both cohorts, we found that birds with greater developmental telomere attrition had lower peak CORT levels and a more negative change in CORT levels between 15 and 30 min following stress exposure. Our results, therefore, provide strong evidence that a measure of biological age explains individual variation in stress responsiveness: birds that were biologically older were less stress responsive. Our results provide a novel explanation for the phenomenon of developmental programming of the stress response: observed changes in stress physiology as a result of exposure to early-life adversity may reflect changes in ageing.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Senescence, Biology, Physiology, Ageing, Acute accent, Acute stress reaction