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Press Release 05-203

Researchers Use Imaging Technique to Visualize Effects of Stress on Human Brain

Method tracks water molecules in blood

Blow flow in the brains of volunteers undergoing mental arithmetic


Blood flow in the brains of volunteers undergoing mental arithmetic
Credit and Larger Version


November 22, 2005

The holiday season is notorious for the emotional stress it evokes. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have come up with a non-invasive way to see the effects of psychological stress in an area of the brain linked to anxiety and depression. This research has important implications for how practitioners treat the numerous long-term health consequences of chronic stress.

In the study, which is reported in the Nov.21 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to detect an increase in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex in individuals subjected to stress. Further, the increase remained even when the stressor was removed, suggesting the effects of stress are more persistent than once thought.

Whereas most previous fMRI studies have relied on indirect measures of cerebral blood flow, the Penn team, led by John A. Detre, measured blood flow directly, using a technique called arterial spin labeling. The technique is non-invasive, relying on magnetically "tagging" the water molecules in subjects' blood.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Air Force.

For a complete story, see the University of Pennsylvania release.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Mitch Waldrop, NSF, 703-292-7752, mwaldrop@nsf.gov
Olivia Fermano, University of Pennsylvania, 215-349-5653, olivia.fermano@uphs.upenn.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Arterial spin labeling uses an fMRI magnet to "tag" water molecules in the patient's blood
Arterial spin labeling uses an fMRI magnet to "tag" water molecules in the patient's blood
Credit and Larger Version