Emotional stress has been recognized as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. The impact of stress on physiological and psychological processes is determined by characteristics of the stress stimulus. For example, distinct responses are induced by acute vs. chronic aversive stimuli. Additionally, the magnitude of stress responses has been reported to be inversely related to the degree of predictability of the aversive stimulus. Therefore, the purpose of the present review was to discuss experimental research in animal models describing the influence of stressor stimulus characteristics, such as chronicity and predictability, in cardiovascular dysfunctions induced by emotional stress. Regarding chronicity, the importance of cardiovascular and autonomic adjustments during acute stress sessions and cardiovascular consequences of frequent stress response activation during repeated exposure to aversive threats (i.e., chronic stress) is discussed. Evidence of the cardiovascular and autonomic changes induced by chronic stressors involving daily exposure to the same stressor (predictable) vs. different stressors (unpredictable) is reviewed and discussed in terms of the impact of predictability in cardiovascular dysfunctions induced by stress.
Keywords: autonomic activity; baroreflex; chronic variable stress; crowding stress; psychological stress; restraint stress; social defeat; social isolation.