Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

The relation of flow-experience and physiological arousal under stress - can u shape it?

Peifer, C., Schulz, A., Schächinger, H., Baumann, N. & Antoni, C.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2014.01.009

In this study, we investigate the relationship between stress and flow-experience with the help of psychophysiological arousal indicators. Whereas recent studies suggest a positive relation between flow and physiological arousal, so far nothing is known on the relation between flow and high arousal in response to a salient stressor. We here suggest that the relation of flow with sympathetic arousal and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activation follows an inverted u-curve rather than a linear function: moderate physiological arousal should facilitate flow-experience, whereas excessive physiological arousal should hinder flow. In order to experimentally stimulate high physiological arousal, we exposed 22 healthy male participants to a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test. Then, participants had to perform a complex computer task for 60 minutes and to rate their flow-experience on the Flow Short-Scale directly after task completion. During the experiment, cortisol samples were taken every 15 minutes, and heart rate variability measures were assessed by continuous electrocardiography. We found an inverted u-shaped relationship of flow-experience with indices of sympathetic arousal and cortisol, whereas parasympathetic indices of heart rate control during stress were linearly and positively correlated with flow-experience. Our results suggest that moderate sympathetic arousal and HPA-axis activation and possibly a co-activation of both branches of the autonomic nervous system characterize task-related flow-experience.


Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

You are not alone: Relatedness reduces adverse effects of state orientation on well-being under stress.

Chatterjee, M. B., Baumann, N. & Osborne, D.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167213476895

A low ability to self-regulate emotions (state orientation) is associated with reduced well-being—especially under stress. Until now, research has approached this topic from an asocial perspective that views the self as devoid from relatedness concerns. However, people are social creatures who benefit from their relationships with others. As such, we expected that personally valuing (Study 1) and experimentally priming (Study 2) a sense of relatedness with others would act as a buffer against stress-related impairments in state-oriented individuals. In Study 1, high (vs. low) benevolence values removed the adverse effect of state orientation on well-being found under stressful life circumstances. In Study 2, focusing on similarities (vs. differences) while comparing oneself with a friend removed the adverse effect of state orientation on recovery from a negative mood induction. Our findings suggest that individuals with low self-regulatory competencies may profit from valuing and directing their attention toward their relatedness with others.


Brain, Behaviour, Immunity

Neuregulin-1, the fetal endothelium, and brain damage in preterm newborns.

Hoffmann, I., Bueter, W., Zscheppang, K., Brinkhaus, M. J., Liese, A., Riemke, S., Dörk, T., Dammann, O., Dammann, C. E.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2009.08.012

To assess the potential role for Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) as a systemic endogenous protector in the setting of perinatal inflammatory brain damage.

We measured NRG1-protein and mRNA levels in human umbilical venous endothelial cells (HUVECs) of different gestational ages at various durations of exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In parallel, we genotyped the donor individuals for SNP8NRG221533, a disease-related single nucleotide polymorphism in the 5' region upstream of the NRG1 sequence. Intracellular NRG1 localization was visualized by confocal microscopy. Furthermore we analyzed the relationship between SNP8NRG221533 genotype and neurodevelopmental outcome in children born preterm.

We observed a positive dose-response-relationship between NRG1-mRNA and intracellular protein levels with both advancing gestational age and duration of LPS exposure in HUVECs. The presence of allele C at the SNP8NRG221533 locus was associated with an increased cellular production of NRG1 in HUVECs, and with a significantly reduced risk for cerebral palsy and developmental delay in children born preterm.

In conclusion, our data indicate that gestational age, duration of LPS exposure, and the SNP8NRG221533 genotype affect NRG1 levels. Our results support the hypothesis that NRG1 may qualify as an endogenous protector during fetal development.

Early Human Development

Neuregulin-1 high-producer genotype is associated with a decreased risk of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Pleickhardt, E. P., Celandine, A., Davis, J. M., Chen, M., Schürmann, P., Dörk, T., Dammann, C. E. L., Dammann, O.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2010.03.010

Background: Neuregulin (NRG1) is a developmental growth factor and homozygous C allele carriers at the NRG221533 locus are at reduced risk for developmental disability. Aims: To explore whether 1) the NRG221533 CC genotype is associated with a decreased likelihood of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission; 2) NRG1 is present in the infant's systemic circulation; and 3) to comparatively investigate two additional proposed high-producer single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for the cytokines interleukin 6 (− 572) and interleukin 10 (− 1082), examining both gene product and the association for admission to the NICU. Study design: IL6 and IL10 protein was measured in umbilical cord blood by a multiplex sandwich immunoassay and NRG1 by ELISA. Infants were screened for SNPs IL6 (− 572), IL10 (− 1082), and NRG221533. We defined IL6 (C), IL10 (G) and NRG1 (C) as high-producer alleles based on published data. Subjects: Unselected single-center convenience sample of 97 newborns with a gestational age of 25–33 weeks (N = 18), 34–36 weeks (N = 17), 37–38 weeks (N = 28), and 39–41 weeks (N = 34). Outcome measures. Prematurity (< 37 completed weeks) and admission to NICU. Results: The SNP NRG221533 CC genotype was associated with reduced admission to the NICU, even after adjustment for confounders. Adjustment for high IL6 levels reduced the protective effect. NRG1 levels tended to increase with advancing gestational age. Unexpectedly, we found lower IL6 and IL10 levels in infants homozygous for the IL6 (C) and IL10 (G) alleles, and no associations between IL10 (− 1082) and IL6 (− 572) genotype and prematurity or admission to NICU. Conclusions: The NRG221533 CC genotype might be protective in newborns. The protective effect might not be directly related to increased systemic NRG levels.



Neuregulin-1: a potential endogenous protector in perinatal brain white matter damage.

Dammann, O., Bueter, W., Leviton, A., Gressens, P., & Dammann, C. E.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1159/000111119

Brain white matter damage, an important antecedent of long-term disabilities among preterm infants, has both endogenous and exogenous components. One of the endogenous components is the paucity of developmentally regulated protectors. Here we expand on this component, discussing the potential roles of one putative protector, neuregulin (NRG)-1, in brain development and damage. We outline how NRG-1 might be involved in perinatal brain damage pathomechanisms and suggest that NRG-1 might be one target for intervention.


Adult attachment and HPA system regulation: Individual differences in reactive and awakening cortisol.

Quirin, M., Pruessner, J. C., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.01.013

Early life experiences can influence hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis regulation in adulthood, in both animals and humans. In humans, they have also been shown to influence adult attachment styles. However, the relationship between adult attachment styles and HPA axis regulation is largely unexplored. The present study investigated the relationship among varying levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance with both the cortisol response to acute stress (CRS) and the cortisol response to awakening (CRA) in 48 adult women. Attachment-unrelated stress was induced by a laboratory stress task. Saliva for free cortisol assessment was sampled before and after the stress task in the laboratory and at home on 2 consecutive days in the morning after awakening. We found that attachment anxiety but not attachment avoidance was associated with cortisol measures. Attachment anxiety was positively correlated with CRS and negatively with CRA. Finally, the two cortisol parameters were negatively associated with one another. The results are discussed with respect to (1) recent findings suggesting that the HPA system and hippocampus are programmed during critical development periods, establishing a certain trajectory of physiological responsiveness throughout life, and (2) a model that links development of the hippocampus with self development.



Interleukin-10 high producer allele and ultrasound-defined periventricular white matter abnormalities in preterm infants: a preliminary study.

Dördelmann, M., Kerk, J., Dressler, F., Brinkhaus, M. J., Bartels, D. B., Dammann, C. E., Dörk, T., & Dammann, O.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-924554

Inflammation plays a role in prematurity, in neonatal disorders of the brain, lung, eye, bowel, and in developmental disability among preterm infants. We initiated a pilot study in preterm children to determine the prevalence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the infection/inflammation-associated genes for interleukin (IL)-10 (- 1082 G/A), IL-1beta (+ 3953 C/T), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (- 308 G/A) and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR-4) (Asp299Gly) and whether these SNPs affect the risk for neonatal disorders.

We genotyped 73 children >/= 2 years of age whose gestational age at birth was < 32 weeks, and explored the associations between genotypes and neonatal disorders and developmental status at age 2 + years.

Infants homozygous for the high IL-10 producer - 1082 G-allele (n = 15) were significantly less likely to develop ultrasound-defined periventricular echodensities. A non-significant, but prominent, risk reduction for bronchopulmonary dysplasia, high-grade retinopathy, cerebral palsy, and developmental delay at age 2 + years was present. Polymorphisms in the IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, and TLR-4 genes were too infrequent in our pilot sample to allow for reasonable analysis.

Infants homozygous for the IL-10 high producer - 1082 G allele might be at reduced risk for prematurity-associated disorders.


Zeitschrift für Differentielle und Diagnostische Psychologie

Handlungsfähigkeit und das Selbst [Action competence and the self: Individual differences in coping with “inner capitulation“].

Biebrich, R., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1024/0170-1789.25.2.57

The study deals with the issue of coping with states of “inner capitulation” which may occur when an individual's resources are overtaxed by a complex problem situation (Biebrich & Kuhl, 2003). Conceptual reasoning is used to show that coping with “inner capitulation” is dependent on the resilience of the self-protection system: The relationship between components of the self-protection system, that is felt security and action competence is very important in this context. Using confirmatory factor analysis, models for measuring the constructs of felt security and action competence were tested. Employing structural equation modeling (SEM) on the basis of the program LISREL 8, the relationship between both theoretical constructs was investigated: A significant influence of felt security on action competence was found which, under specified conditions, may become insignificant. Using SEM, various personality traits were tested with regard to their being predictors for felt security and action competence and individual differences in coping with “inner capitulation” are discussed.


Zeitschrift für Differentielle und Diagnostische Psychologie

Innere Kapitulation beim komplexen Problemlösen: Dissoziative versus integrative Verarbeitungsstrategien [„Inner capitulation“ and problem-solving: Dissociative versus integrative coping strategies].

Biebrich, R., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1024/0170-1789.24.3.175

When complex problem solving overtaxes individual resources a multi-modal state of inner capitulation may be elicited. This state does not only refer to a loss of cognitive control but involves additional features such as reduction in self-confidence, in positive mood, in expectations of success, and an increase in fear. A model of “inner capitulation” is discussed that has been developed on the basis of Personality-Systems-Interaction theory (PSI theory, Kuhl, 1998, 2000, 2001). Individual differences in processing negative experiences are also discussed. Some findings from a study based on the computer simulation game “Fire” developed by Dörner and coworkers are summarized and discussed with reference to predictors of “inner capitulation” and possible protective mechanisms.

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