Washington: Exposure to large amounts ofsocial stress can affect the body`s immune system resultingin skin inflammation, according to a new study.
"It turns out, there are important differences in howpeople interpret and respond to social situations," leadauthor George Slavich said. "For example, some people see giving a speech in front ofan audience as a welcome challenge; others see it asthreatening and distressing. In this study, we sought toexamine the neural bases for these differences in response andto understand how these differences relate to biologicalprocesses that can affect human health and well-being." For their study, the UCLA researchers recruited 124individuals -- 54 men and 70 women -- and put them into twoawkward social situations. First, in the lab, the volunteers completed the TrierSocial Stress Test (TSST), which involves preparing anddelivering an impromptu speech and performing difficult mentalarithmetic, both in front of a socially rejecting panel ofraters wearing white lab coats. Mouth swabs were taken before and after thepublic-speaking tasks to test for changes in two keybiomarkers of inflammatory activity -- a receptor for tumornecrosis factor-a (sTNFaRII) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). In the second session, 31 of the participants received anMRI brain scan while playing a computerised game of catch withwhat they believed were two other real people. Their results showed that individuals who exhibitedgreater neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulatecortex and anterior insula during social rejection in thebrain scanner also exhibited greater increases in inflammatoryactivity when exposed to acute social stress in the lab. "This is further evidence of how closely our mind andbody are connected," Slavich said. Although increases in inflammatory activity are part ofour immune system`s natural response to potentially harmfulsituations, Slavich noted, "frequent or chronic activation ofthe system may increase risk for a variety of disorders,including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovasculardisease, and even depression." PTI
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