Goal 1: Promote Human Health

Brain-Heart Connections

Depression and CHD will become the 2 leading causes of disability in the next decade. Chronic as well as traumatic stress increases CVD risk by about 50%. Although we understand that there are connections between psychosocial stress, affective disorders, and CVD, we do not understand the vast array of brain areas that impact the CV system and the mechanisms connecting them. Neuroscience has made great leaps in understanding the brain in the last 20 years. This more sophisticated understanding of neurobiology needs to be incorporated in our understanding of brain-heart connections. We have a better opportunity with CVD that any other disease to chart brain-body connections and thus promote a whole-body approach to health.

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC

For example, we still do not have a comprehensive understanding of how depression increases incident CHD.

Alternative treatments for depression are needed that target disrupted pathways known to promote CVD (e.g. autonomic, inflammation).

What are the mechanisms through which PTSD doubles incident CHD within a decade?

What are the mechanisms through which exercise, sleep, and certain diet patterns mediate the effects of psychosocial stress on health?

Not all stressed people get CVD and some data suggests that coping style mediates stress effects on CVD risk. If so, perhaps we can teach coping styles. But to do so we need to know more about whether and how certain coping styles modulate stress effects on the CV system.

A major cause of psychosocial stress in modern America is social density. The higher the density, the less tolerance there is for deviance from the norm. How does increased social density effect CV physiology? Are there ways to intervene through spatial partitioning or interaction patterns that alter perceptions of crowdedness or lack of privacy?

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC

We have all the tools to address this over-arching area and these specific questions. They just need to be made a priority.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea Carol Shively

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Idea No. 818