30 August 2005

Emotional Asthma

A new study finds that asthma and emotions have a relationship.

In a small study of 6 patients, scientists found that asthma patients have extra brain activity in an area called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) whenever the word "wheeze" is mentioned and heard.

The study can help explain why in times of asthmatic attacks, emotional stressors play a big role in worsening the condition.
For the study, patients with asthma were given ragweed or dust-mite extracts to inhale and then heard three different types of words -- asthma-related words such as "wheeze", non-asthma negative terms such as "loneliness" and neutral words such as "curtains".

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, was used to watch the brain action in real time.

Two areas of the brain showed more activity in response to asthma-related words --- the insula, which plays a role in obtaining information about the body's physiological condition, such as shortness of breath, and the anterior cingulate cortex, involved in processing emotions.

"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," Davidson said in a statement.

[ Reuters AlertNet, Aug 29 2005 ]

Anyone who has witnessed and experienced an asthma attack will see that it is truly an event that will leave an emotional imprint on your brain. Gasping for one's breath as your airways constrict can be very stressful.

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) will surely remember that and a mere mention of any word associated with asthma like "wheeze" can make it light up. It's pretty much like the way you feel emotional when you smell a particular perfume or hear a romantic song.

3 reactions:

Toni said...

Aha! When H has cough, I don't ask him how he is. Paano ba naman whenever I'd ask him "Hey hunny, how's your cough na?" He'd start coughing up a storm! *L* Pwedeng ganito pala nangyayari!

may said...

i have read something very similar to this idea ages ago, when i was trying to search for the reason why i get asthma attacks just thinking of a coming stressful situation. i hope people won't misinterpret it as "acting" though, because after the brain is triggered, the physiological symptoms are real.

Dr. Emer said...

Toni, go easy on him next time he coughs, ok? :)

That is so true, May. One has to experience asthmatic attacks and see that there is really no "acting-up" involved. I don't have asthma but I have heard and seen the torment of wheezing asthmatic patients. Emotions really do play a role.