A review of neuroimaging studies of stressor-evoked blood pressure reactivity: emerging evidence for a brain-body pathway to coronary heart disease risk

Neuroimage. 2009 Sep;47(3):922-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.04.073. Epub 2009 May 4.


An individual's tendency to show exaggerated or otherwise dysregulated cardiovascular reactions to acute stressors has long been associated with increased risk for clinical and preclinical endpoints of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the 'brain-body' pathways that link stressor-evoked cardiovascular reactions to CHD risk remain uncertain. This review summarizes emerging neuroimaging research indicating that individual differences in stressor-evoked blood pressure reactivity (a particular form of cardiovascular reactivity) are associated with activation patterns in corticolimbic brain areas that are jointly involved in processing stressors and regulating the cardiovascular system. As supported empirically by activation likelihood estimates derived from a meta-analysis, these corticolimbic areas include divisions of the cingulate cortex, insula, and amygdala--as well as networked cortical and subcortical areas involved in mobilizing hemodynamic and metabolic support for stress-related behavioral responding. Contextually, the research reviewed here illustrates how behavioral medicine and health neuroscience methods can be integrated to help characterize the 'brain-body' pathways that mechanistically link stressful experiences with CHD risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*