Brain Correlates of Mental Stress-Induced Myocardial Ischemia

J. Douglas Bremner, Carolina Campanella, Zehra Khan, Majid Shah, Muhammad Hammadah, Kobina Wilmot, Ibhar Al Mheid, Bruno B. Lima, Ernest V. Garcia, Jonathon Nye, Laura Ward, Michael H. Kutner, Paolo Raggi, Brad D. Pearce, Amit J. Shah, Arshed A. Quyyumi, Viola Vaccarino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Objective Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and despite important advances in our understanding of this disorder, the underlying mechanisms remain under investigation. Recently, increased attention has been placed on the role of behavioral factors such as emotional stress on CAD risk. Brain areas involved in memory and the stress response, including medial prefrontal cortex, insula, and parietal cortex, also have outputs to the peripheral cardiovascular system. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of mental stress on brain and cardiac function in patients with CAD. Methods CAD patients (N = 170) underwent cardiac imaging with [Tc-99m] sestamibi single-photon emission tomography at rest and during a public speaking mental stress task. On another day, they underwent imaging of the brain with [O-15] water positron emission tomography (PET) during mental stress (arithmetic and public speaking) and control conditions. Results Patients with mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia showed increased activation with stress in anterior cingulate, inferior frontal gyrus, and parietal cortex (p <.005). This was seen with both arithmetic stress and public speaking stress. Arithmetic stress was additionally associated with left insula activation, and public speaking with right pre/postcentral gyrus and middle temporal gyrus activation (p <.005). Conclusions These findings suggest that mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia is associated with activation in brain areas involved in the stress response and autonomic regulation of the cardiovascular system. Altered brain reactivity to stress could possibly represent a mechanism through which stress leads to increased risk of CAD-related morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-525
Number of pages11
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • PTSD
  • depressive disorders
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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