Article Summaries for May 2017 Psychosomatic Medicine, Volume 79, Issue 4

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Kang et al. examined whether prioritizing self-transcendent values such as family and friends over nontranscendent values such as wealth is associated with reduced threat processing in the brain. Sedentary adults were exposed to messages encouraging physical activity, such as “A lack of activity can be linked to a shorter life.” When individuals were exposed to these messages, a tendency to prioritize self-transcendent values was associated with lower reactivity within neural regions implicated in threat responses (amygdala, anterior insula). These findings suggest that reducing neural indicators of threat in response to health-related messaging is a potential way through which transcendent values benefit health.
Pages 379–387;
In an accompanying editorial, Hall et al. provide context for the interpretation of these findings using the brain-as-predictor approach and other recent biobehavioral perspectives involving the use of neuroscience methods in the service of health behavior change.
Pages 376–378;
A meta-analysis by Forsberg et al. investigated whether the magnitude of placebo analgesia is different in patients compared to healthy individuals. Seventy-one studies including 4239 participants revealed that the average effect sizes for patients and healthy individuals were not markedly different. However, there were relatively more studies with patients compared to healthy individuals in which there was a clinically significant reduction in pain. Thus, the data suggest that studying placebos in healthy individuals may underestimate potential benefits in clinical patient samples.
Pages 388–394;
The occurrence and detection of chest pain during an ischemic episode may be critical for self-initiation of treatment and timely presentation to the emergency department for cardiac care. Stébenne et al. explored the associations between positive affect (PA), negative affect (NA), and chest pain reporting in patients with and without ischemia during exercise testing. NA, but not PA, was associated with chest pain in the full sample. Patterns of results differed by the presence or absence of exercise-induced ischemia.
Pages 395–403;
Van Montfort et al. examined the validity of the European Society of Cardiology psychosocial screening instrument in cardiac patients. Factor analysis showed five constructs. Correspondence with validated questionnaires was fair to moderate. Psychological factors reflecting negative affect were predictive of cardiac symptoms at 1-year follow-up. These findings contribute to the search for a valid multidimensional psychosocial screening instrument in cardiology.
Pages 404–415;
Adverse environments may increase cardiovascular risk by inducing “agonistic striving”—a tendency to influence or control other people and relationships. In research with young African American and white adults from disadvantaged neighborhoods, Ewart et al. found that higher salivary cortisol levels predicted higher ambulatory blood pressure, but only in individuals exhibiting agonistic striving.
Pages 416–425;
Pérez et al. examined associations of normal grief and complicated grief—that is, grief that is unresolved and prolonged—with diurnal cortisol patterns in a large study. Participants with complicated grief showed low levels of morning cortisol and low overall diurnal cortisol levels characteristic of a chronic stress reaction.
Pages 426–433;
In a systematic review of 43 studies that examined life course cardiovascular disease (CVD) effects of childhood adversity, Appleton et al. found that most studies reported a positive association, suggesting a dose-response relationship between childhood adversity and CVD risk. The literature would benefit from improving consistency of measurement and considering socioeconomic status as an antecedent factor instead of a component part of an adversity score.
Pages 434–440;
In a sample of 295 women, a history of child abuse or neglect was associated with higher subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) as assessed by carotid intima media thickness and carotid plaque. Thurston et al. found that women with a similar abuse or neglect history who slept six or fewer hours a night or experienced hot flashes in sleep showed the highest levels of subclinical CVD measures.
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