Neural responses during acute mental stress are associated with angina pectoris

Matthew T. Wittbrodt, Kasra Moazzami, Amit J. Shah, Bruno B. Lima, Muhammad Hammadah, Puja K. Mehta, Arshed A. Quyyumi, Viola Vaccarino, Jonathon A. Nye, J. Douglas Bremner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Angina pectoris is associated with increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events in coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, an effect not entirely attributable to the severity of CAD. Objective: Examine brain correlates of mental stress in patients with CAD with and without a history of angina. Methods: Participants (n = 170) with stable CAD completed the Seattle Angina Questionnaire along with other psychometric assessments. In this cross-sectional study, participants underwent laboratory-based mental stress testing using mental arithmetic and public speaking tasks along with control conditions in conjunction with positron emission tomography brain imaging using radiolabeled water. Brain activity during mental stress was compared between participants who did or did not report chest pain/angina in the previous month. A factor analysis was coupled with dominance analysis to identify brain regions associated with angina. Results: Participants reporting angina in the past month experienced greater (p <.005) activations within the left: frontal lobe (z = 4.01), temporal gyrus (z = 3.32), parahippocampal gyrus (z = 3.16), precentral gyrus (z = 3.14), right fusiform gyrus (z = 3.07), and bilateral cerebellum (z = 3.50) and deactivations within the right frontal gyrus (z = 3.67), left precuneus (z = 3.19), and left superior temporal gyrus (z = 3.11) during mental stress. A factor containing the left motor areas, inferior frontal lobe, and operculum (average McFadden's number addition = 0.057) in addition to depression severity (0.10) and adulthood trauma exposure (0.064) correlated with angina history. Conclusions: Self-reported angina in patients with stable CAD is associated with increased neural responses to stress in a network including the inferior frontal lobe, motor areas, and operculum, potentially indicating an upregulated pain perception response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110110
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Angina
  • Cardiovascular
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Frontal lobe
  • Mental stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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