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Poster D106

Exploring how perceived stress modulates neural synchrony using naturalistic fMRI

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Joshua Craig1, Keva Klamer1, Christina Haines1, KiAnna Sullivan1, Chelsea Ekstrand1; 1University of Lethbridge

Previous research shows the widespread impact of stress across the brain, affecting the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, insula, parahippocampal gyrus, and cingulate gyrus (Golkar et al., 2014; McEwen et al., 2010; Berretz et al., 2020). However, traditional investigations into the neural correlates of stress have typically centered on stress induction or use stimuli that are not reflective of real-world task demands. In this study, we sought to explore how perceived stress modulates neural synchrony in response to naturalistic, audiovisual movie stimuli that better emulate the task demands of everyday life within an MRI scanner. To do so, we used data from 80 participants from the Naturalistic Neuroimaging Database (Aliko et al., 2020) who each watched one of ten feature-length films during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We separated participants into low- and high-perceived stress groups using a median split on their perceived stress scale (Cohen et al.,1994) score, and then calculated differences in intersubject correlations between the low- and high-stress groups using linear mixed-effects modeling. Results revealed that, even across 10 different films, there was increased neural synchrony for the low-stress vs. the high-stress group in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus, lateral occipital cortex, occipital pole, superior parietal lobule, and right orbitofrontal cortex. Together, our results suggest that individuals with lower stress levels process naturalistic stimuli more similarly in the brain than high-stress individuals. Furthermore, this study offers valuable insights into how perceived stress influences neural processing in a more ‘real-world’ context.

Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Multisensory


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