Brain structures contribute to asthma

The mere mention of a stressful word like “wheeze” can activate two brain regions in asthmatics during an attack, and this brain activity may be associated with more severe asthma symptoms, according to a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and collaborators. The fMRI scans revealed that the asthma-related terms stimulated robust responses in two brain regions–the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula–that were strongly correlated with measures of lung function and inflammation. The other types of words were not strongly associated with lung function or inflammation.

The two brain structures are involved in transmitting information about the physiological condition of the body, such as shortness of breath and pain levels, says Davidson, and they have strong connections with other brain structures essential in processing emotional information. “In asthmatics, the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula may be hyper-responsive to emotional and physiological signals, like inflammation, which may in turn influence the severity of symptoms,” says Davidson. The researchers suspect that other brain regions may also be involved in the asthma-stress interaction.

Science Daily
September 27, 2005

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