How stress affects emotional bodily functions

Posted 14 Feb 2022

The modern world is filled with stressful situations, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excessive or prolonged stress can cause negative changes in the body and lead to illness. However, more research is needed to determine how this occurs and what we can do to minimise the impact of stress on our health.

Associate Professor Yoichiro Otsuka has received a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant to explore the link between stress and the brain mechanisms that control internal bodily functions.

A/Prof Otsuka and his team will aim to determine how a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin controls emotional bodily functions and identify the areas where it operates.

“Vital signs such as body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, which are essential for life support, are under regulation of the autonomic nervous system and change dynamically in response to diverse environmental conditions,” A/Prof Otsuka said.

“We hypothesise that these special chemical messengers play a key role in the regulation of bodily function. We will use a novel model to measure these biological parameters.

“This project will provide major advances to our understanding of brain circuitry, providing the basis for future research on pathophysiological mechanisms when autonomic regulation is excessive.

“We will be able to translate this knowledge to promote wellbeing and develop treatment methods that will help us maintain autonomic function under stressful conditions. Understanding central control of the dynamic autonomic regulation is also an important step in developing new treatments for patients suffering from pathological autonomic dysregulation.”

Research category: Biomedical

Project title: The role of the brain serotonin system in emotionally-elicited physiological responses

Lead researcher: A/Prof Yoichiro Otsuka


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