Our two recent papers uncover a novel relation between neural and cardiac indices of enhanced attention in young athletes

In two recent papers published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Medicine, and in Scientific Reports, we showed that young athletes perform better in a sustained attention task compared to their sedentary counterparts. Interestingly, the benefits of exercise on attention are observed only during the first 30 minutes of the 1-hour task. After that, there are no differences in the performance of the two groups. We observe that during this enhanced attention period, athletes also exhibit significantly different EEG and heart period event-related potentials (ERPs). This novel finding points towards a previously unrecognised brain-heart interaction in the mediation of cognitive benefits induced by physical exercise. These interesting results on the role of regular exercise on attention have also attracted the attention of Spanish popular science journals.

Our new paper about stress in crisis managers published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine

In this recently published study we compared 30 experienced crisis managers with 30 managers from other disciplines, in terms of self-reported stress, health status and psychophysiological reactivity to crisis-related and non-specific visual and acoustic aversive stimuli and cognitive challenge. Crisis managers reported lower stress levels, a more positive strain-recuperation-balance, greater social resources, reduced physical symptoms, as well as more physical exercise and less alcohol consumption. They exhibited diminished electrodermal and heart rate responses to crisis-related and non-specific stressors.

The results indicate reduced stress and physical complaints, diminished psychophysiological stress reactivity, and a healthier life-style in crisis managers. Improved stress resistance may limit vulnerability to stress-related performance decline and facilitate preparedness for major incidents.

Download the entire article here.

The Laboratory for Network Physiology launches its official website

NetworkPhysiology-logoThe Laboratory for Network Physiology directed by Plamen Ch. Ivanov recently launched its official website. Professor Ivanov, with whom I collaborate closely for the past six years, is leading a unique team of statistical physicists, neuroscientists, applied mathematicians and biomedical engineers that have as their mission to understand how organ systems dynamically interact and collectively behave as a network to produce health or disease. This coordinated effort proposes a new scientific field, Network Physiology, to probe the network of interactions among diverse physiologic systems.

In the website interested readers can find information about the group’s research projects, publications, news, job opportunities and more.

Visit the website here.

Losing money is more stressful than bribing! Our new Frontiers article explores the physiology of corrupt behavior

In our recently article published in “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience“, we show that high emotional arousal is not solely associated to unethical economic behavior —such as tax evasion— as previous research had revealed. Instead, people get emotionally aroused also when making ethical choices if these choices imply the loss of monetary reward. In other words, it seems to be more stressful for someone to lose money than to make an unethical decision that causes a loss of money to others. This means that, in certain circumstances, our bodies reward unethical decisions in order to minimise the unpleasant feeling produced by decisions that cost us money. This behavior is inverted when the possibility of punishment exists. In that case corrupt decisions become more stressful than ethical ones.

These results support the existence of severe external control in economic transactions and bare important consequences for the political fight against corruption.

You can read the full article here

Our new PLoS ONE paper on the Emotional and Attentional Impact of Exposure to One’s Own Body in Bulimia Nervosa

originally published at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0102595

We recently published a research article where we examined the effects of viewing a video of one’s own body on the physiological (eye-blink startle, cardiac defense, and skin conductance) and subjective (pleasure, arousal, and control ratings) responses elicited by a burst of 110 dB white noise of 500 ms duration. The results showed that, when viewing their own bodies, women with BN experienced (a) greater inhibition of the startle reflex, (b) greater cardiac acceleration in the first component of the defense reaction, (c) greater skin conductance response, and (d) less subjective pleasure and control combined with greater arousal, compared with the control participants. The findings suggest that, for women with BN, peripheral-physiological responses to self-images are dominated by attentional processes, which provoke an immobility reaction caused by a dysfunctional negative response to their own body.

In a complex world is it always meaningful to ask why?

Originally posted at: http://greeklish.info/en/world/251

As I make my way through an ocean of stimuli and experiences I observe the subtle changes in my mood and try to explain where they come from and what is causing them. My mind is hardwired to look for causes in a linear way. Big emotions are caused by dramatic life events while minor mood changes can have less significant origins, such as something I ate yesterday or an approaching project deadline. This hunt for external causes keeps my mind busy and the conversations with friends going, but is it always meaningful?

Not many years ago we believed that biological systems strive to maintain a constant state and that observed changes result from external factors that “push” the system away from the desired equilibrium state [1]. Based on this mode of thinking, many cardiologists would still regard heart rate plots A and C as belonging to healthy individuals and consider plot B as problematic. The truth, however is that the constant and regular plots —A and B respectively— come from patients with life-threatening congestive heart failure, and only the seemingly erratic heart rate fluctuations represented in plot B come from a healthy young individual. Continue reading “In a complex world is it always meaningful to ask why?”