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  • 10 May 2011
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    GCPH Seminar Series 7 Lecture 6 - Prof Peter Gianaros

    Location: St Andrew's in the Square
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    Mapping the mind under pressure: Can brain imaging research tell us anything new about stress and physical health?

    Everyone faces stressful experiences. They are facts of life. Not everyone handles stressful experiences in quite the same way, however. And not all stressful experiences are the same. Some are brief. Others are chronic. Some are psychological. Others are physical. Some make us grow and give us an opportunity to flourish. Others make us flounder and undermine our wellbeing. The different ways in which stress can affect people either positively or negatively ultimately depends on the brain. This is because the brain is the central organ that filters our experiences as being positive or negative — and it ultimately determines how we handle these experiences throughout life.

    The purpose of this lecture was to provide a general overview of what we know and what we don’t know about how the human brain processes and responds to stressful experiences, both in the short-term and over the long-term. A particular emphasis was placed on the strengths and weaknesses of brain imaging studies to address open questions about the bodily pathways linking stressful experiences to health, particularly physical health. To this end, the speaker’s work on the neurobiology of stress and cardiovascular disease risk was used for illustrative purposes.

    The lecture concluded by considering how future studies on this complicated topic can deepen our understanding of how stressful experiences can become embodied by the brain to influence health throughout life.

    Downloads
    Presentation slides - PDF
    Seminar summary - PDF 

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    Peter Gianaros, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. His research programme is directed at understanding the neurobiological substrates of stress reactivity and risk for cardiovascular disease.