A recent study has identified the neural pathways involved in inflammatory responding to acute social stress. Dr. George Slavich and colleagues recruited 124 young healthy adults, and had them to give an impromptu speech and perform difficult mental arithmetic in front of a socially rejecting panel of raters. A subset of these participants subsequently had their brains scanned (using fMRI) while they played a computerized ball-tossing game in which they were eventually excluded.
Dr. Slavich and colleagues found that participants who exhibited greater neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the anterior insula while being rejected during the ball-tossing game showed greater inflammatory responses to the laboratory-based social stress task.
These findings have important implications for understanding susceptibility to disease and are the first to elucidate the neurocognitive processes that underlie inflammatory responses to acute social stress.
The study appeared in a recent edition of the leading scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.
Other UCLA authors on the study were Balwin M. Way, Naomi I. Eisenberger, and Shelley E. Taylor. The study was funded by a Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship and by the National Institutes of Health.