Friday, March 04, 2022

Listening to our bodies can make us more resilient to stress

Jane Brody points to work from Haas et al. suggesting that resilience is more about body awareness than rational thinking. In their experiments subjects who had more subjective awareness of their internal feelings were less emotionally reactive to stress (showing less heart rate increase, shallow breathing, blood adrenaline increase), and recovered more quickly from it. Increased awareness of interoceptive stress signals from the body appears to enable stronger top-down suppression of the stress response. Here is the abstract from the Haas et al. article:
This study examined neural processes of resilience during aversive interoceptive processing. Forty-six individuals were divided into three groups of resilience Low (LowRes), high (HighRes), and normal (NormRes), based on the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (2003). Participants then completed a task involving anticipation and experience of loaded breathing during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) recording. Compared to HighRes and NormRes groups, LowRes self-reported lower levels of interoceptive awareness and demonstrated higher insular and thalamic activation across anticipation and breathing load conditions. Thus, individuals with lower resilience show reduced attention to bodily signals but greater neural processing to aversive bodily perturbations. In low resilient individuals, this mismatch between attention to and processing of interoceptive afferents may result in poor adaptation in stressful situations.

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