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Brain Gives Feedback During Stress-Induced Arrhythmia

Cardiac output correlated with heartbeat-evoked potential amplitude in the left temporal, lateral frontal cortex

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The cerebral cortex may play an important feedback role in regulating cardiovascular function in response to stress, according to a report published online April 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Marcus Gray, of University College London, U.K., and colleagues measured changes in cardiac function and brain activity using electroencephalography in 10 male patients with ventricular dysfunction. The men were monitored during experimentally induced stress, which involved counting backward rapidly by sevens.

The test evoked changes in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, ventricular ejection fraction and skin conductance in all subjects, although some subjects had an increase in cardiac output and others had a decrease. Changes in cardiac output during stress were correlated with heartbeat-evoked potential amplitude in the left temporal and lateral frontal cortex, and amplitude in the left temporal region reflected the proarrhythmic status of the heart.

"These findings report cortical representation of cardiac afferent information reflecting myocardial response to mental stress," the authors write. The findings provide "insight into central feedback mechanisms that potentiate arrhythmogenesis in vulnerable cardiological patients during stress or emotional challenge."

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