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Journal Article

Neural correlates of processing stressful information: An event-related fMRI study

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Dedovic, K., Rexroth, M., Wolff, E., Duchesne, A., Scherling, C., Beaudry, T., et al. (2009). Neural correlates of processing stressful information: An event-related fMRI study. Brain Research, 1293, 49-60. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.06.044.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-AD9B-A
Recent neuroimaging studies investigating neural correlates of psychological stress employ cognitive paradigms that induce a significant hormonal stress response in the scanner. The Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST) is one such task that combines challenging mental arithmetic with negative social evaluative feedback. Due to the block design nature of the MIST, it has not been possible thus far to investigate which brain areas respond specifically to the key components of the MIST (mental arithmetic, failure, negative social evaluation). In the current study, we developed an event-related MIST (eventMIST) in order to investigate which neural activation patterns are associated with performing mental arithmetic vs. processing of social evaluative threat. Data was available from twenty healthy university students. The eventMIST induced a significant stress response in a subsample of subjects, called the responders (n = 7). Direct comparison between brain activity changes in responders vs. non-responders, in response to challenging math, revealed increased activity bilaterally in dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (PFC), left temporal pole, and right dorsolateral PFC. In response to negative social evaluation, responders showed reduction of brain activity in limbic system regions (medial orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus), which was largely lacking in non-responders. Direct comparison between the groups for this contrast did not reveal any significant difference, probably due to small number of events available. This is the first study to use an event-related paradigm to investigate brain activity patterns in relation to challenging math and social evaluative threat separately.