11 Dec

PhD conferral Agorastos Agorastos

Supervisor: Prof. dr. K. R. J. Schruers

Co-supervisor: Dr. N. K. Leibold

Keywords: Stress, Autonomic Nervous System, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, Heart Rate Variability

"The Balance Within: Factors influencing neurovisceral autonomic responsiveness to endocrine and pharmacological stress challenges"

Biomedical research has shown an enormous impact of stress on human physiology and chronic disease development. The human stress response is partly mediated by the autonomic nervous system and modulated by a complex network of interconnected brain regions and signalling systems. However, the functional molecular and cellular basis of this autonomic brain network is still widely unexplored. This thesis employs objective stress challenges through endocrine and pharmacological stress provocation paradigms to separately explore the role of different biological factors on stress reactivity, using heart rate variability (HRV) analyses as a readout of central autonomic activity. Our findings underline the complex functional balance of stress system reactivity and highlight an important role of central serotonergic and glutamatergic activity, as well as a vital modulation of stress-related cardiovascular responsiveness through the interplay between autonomic and neuroendocrine stress axis. Our results explain the basis for higher cardiovascular morbidity in psychiatric disease and especially underline the utility of HRV as a transdiagnostic biomarker for stress system sensitivity and vulnerability to stress-related disorders.

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