Heart-brain interactions in mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2009 Mar;11(2):133-40. doi: 10.1007/s11886-009-0020-1.


Myocardial ischemia that results from emotional provocation occurs in as many as 30% to 50% of patients with coronary artery disease during the discourse of their lives. This emotionally provoked or mental stress ischemia is associated with poor prognosis, with emerging treatment strategies. This article outlines the conceptual constructs that support the pathophysiologic underpinnings, and biobehavioral aspects associated with this mental stress ischemia. We review a biobehavioral model in which cognitive stress is transduced in the brain. The response of the brain to psychosocial stress is a highly sophisticated and integrated process by which sensory inputs are evaluated and appraised for their importance in relation to previous experience and current goals. The biologic consequences of such stress transduced in the central nervous system has its effect on cardiovascular flow and function through changes in autonomic balance, which result in various biologic processes that culminate in the perturbation of flow and function of the heart.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Myocardial Ischemia / etiology*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / psychology
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology