Article Summaries for July–August 2017 Psychosomatic Medicine, Volume 79, Issue 6
Elliot et al. investigated whether the association of lifetime traumatic and chronic stress exposures with systemic inflammation is influenced by an individual’s mastery and perceived constraints in his or her life. In a sample of 4,779 adults over age 50, there were significant interactions of lifetime trauma and chronic stress with mastery as related to baseline levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Both lifetime trauma and chronic stress were associated with higher CRP at low but not high levels of mastery. A decline in mastery over time may also strengthen the association between chronic stress and inflammation.
Exposure to stress during critical periods of development can diminish stress reactivity by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Lovallo et al. explored whether polymorphisms of the COMT gene are associated with differing patterns of stress reactivity in adulthood, with implications for the long-term impact of exposure to early life adversity (ELA). Met/Met and Val/Met allele carriers had diminishing cortisol responses with increasing exposure to ELA, consistent with a gene-dose effect on ELA sensitivity.
Genetic and disease-related factors play a role in poor mental health in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Euesden et al. evaluated associations among mental health, disease outcomes, and the genetic risk based on a weighted genetic risk score from 3010 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for depression in a longitudinal study of 520 rheumatoid arthritis patients. Poor mental health at baseline was associated with more active disease, increased disability, and greater pain during 2 years of follow-up. Pain had a bidirectional relationship with mental health, and greater genetic risk of depression was associated with worse mental health.
Sleep quality problems, chronic pain, and depression symptoms frequently occur together. Gasperi et al. report data from a study of 400 twins supporting a genetic link between sleep quality and pain. Evidence also indicated nonshared environmental overlap between pain and sleep quality as well as depression and sleep quality.
Survivors of torture often suffer from chronic pain and increased pain perception. In ex-prisoners of war who had undergone torture and a matched group of veterans, Tsur et al. examined the role of experiencing torture and/or having PTSD as related to pain perception. PTSD was associated with chronic pain, and this association was mediated by pain catastrophizing. However, prior torture exposure was associated with acute pain perception, with fear of pain moderating this association.
Several cross-sectional studies have reported a relationship between PTSD and epilepsy. Chen et al. followed 6425 individuals with PTSD and 24,980 age- and sex-matched controls for 10 years. Individuals with PTSD had an elevated risk of developing epilepsy during follow-up after adjustment for demographic measures and medical and psychiatric comorbidities.
Social support is associated with better health, but the neural mechanisms linking social support to health remain unclear. Brown et al. found that higher self-ratings of general health correspond with decreased hypothalamic activity during a task that blended threat with supportive handholding. This finding suggests that associations between social support and health are partly mediated through the social influences on the hypothalamic sensitivity to threat.
Using magnetic resonance imaging, Taren et al.