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Individuals with asthma have twice the risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders as individuals without asthma and these psychological factors are associated with worse outcomes and greater need for medical intervention. Similarly, asthma symptom onset and exacerbation often occur during times of increased psychological stress. Remission from depression, on the other hand, is associated with improvement in asthma symptoms and decreased usage of asthma medication. Yet research aimed at understanding the biological underpinnings of asthma has focused almost exclusively on the periphery. An extensive literature documents the relationship between emotion and asthma, but little work has explored the function of affective neural circuitry in asthma symptom expression. Therefore, the following review integrates neuroimaging research related to factors that may impact symptom expression in asthma, such as individual differences in sensitivity to visceral signals, the influence of expectation and emotion on symptom perception, and changes related to disease chronicity, such as conditioning and plasticity. The synthesis of these literatures suggests that the insular and anterior cingulate cortices, in addition to other brain regions previously implicated in the regulation of emotion, may be both responsive to asthma-related bodily changes and important in influencing the appearance and persistence of symptom expression in asthma.

Individuals with asthma have twice the risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders as individuals without asthma and these psychological factors are associated with worse outcomes and greater need for medical intervention. Similarly, asthma symptom onset and exacerbation often occur during times of increased psychological stress. Remission from depression, on the other hand, is associated with improvement in asthma symptoms and decreased usage of asthma medication. Yet research aimed at understanding the biological underpinnings of asthma has focused almost exclusively on the periphery. An extensive literature documents the relationship between emotion and asthma, but little work has explored the function of affective neural circuitry in asthma symptom expression. Therefore, the following review integrates neuroimaging research related to factors that may impact symptom expression in asthma, such as individual differences in sensitivity to visceral signals, the influence of expectation and emotion on symptom perception, and changes related to disease chronicity, such as conditioning and plasticity. The synthesis of these literatures suggests that the insular and anterior cingulate cortices, in addition to other brain regions previously implicated in the regulation of emotion, may be both responsive to asthma-related bodily changes and important in influencing the appearance and persistence of symptom expression in asthma.
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Asthma, like many inflammatory disorders, is affected by psychological stress, suggesting that reciprocal modulation may occur between peripheral factors regulating inflammation and central neural circuitry underlying emotion and stress reactivity. Despite suggestions that emotional factors may modulate processes of inflammation in asthma and, conversely, that peripheral inflammatory signals influence the brain, the neural circuitry involved remains elusive. Here we show, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, that activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula to asthma-relevant emotional, compared with valence-neutral stimuli, is associated with markers of inflammation and airway obstruction in asthmatic subjects exposed to antigen. This activation accounts for > or =40% of the variance in the peripheral markers and suggests a neural basis for emotion-induced modulation of airway disease in asthma. The anterior cingulate cortex and insula have been implicated in the affective evaluation of sensory stimulation, regulation of homeostatic responses, and visceral perception. In individuals with asthma and other stress-related conditions, these brain regions may be hyperresponsive to disease-specific emotional and afferent physiological signals, which may contribute to the dysregulation of peripheral processes, such as inflammation.
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