Investigating brain network interactions related to psychosocial stress

Stress research is an active and extensive field of study within psychology, sociology and psychiatry due to its central role in disease onset and progression. While much effort goes into uncovering the mechanics of stress and its impacts on the human body, not much is known yet about the different responses of a person to various types of stress.

Psychosocial stress, meaning stress originating from social interactions, is one of the most common forms of stress throughout an individuals’ life. While benign in small exposures (eg. giving a presentation before a group), chronic exposure to psychosocial stress (eg. having spousal problems) can have a significant impact on both the mental and physical health of an individual.

Special interest goes out to the involvement of the brain with regard to the stress response of an individual. The brain is not only responsible in interpreting social situations, but is also the main organ involved in the response of the body to stressful stimuli. It is therefore only logical that much stress-related research is focused on the brain.

In this project, I look at three distinct brain networks: the default mode network, the salience network and the central executive network and investigate how these networks react, adapt and change due to psychosocial stress. The main neuroimaging modality that is used for these investigations is electroencaphalography (EEG). Aside from looking at this on a group level, I also investigate how individual personality differences result in differences within these brain networks.

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