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Mechanisms of Emotion Control: Identifying Neuro-Cognitive Abnormalities Predisposing to Hypertension (COEM)
Start date: Jun 1, 2013, End date: May 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Essential hypertension (EH) is the most important risk factor for cardio- and cerebro-vascular diseases, the most common cause of premature death in industrialized countries. This proposal addresses the hypothesis that neuro-cognitive abnormalities serve as a key risk factors in the development of EH. It is well established that patients with EH, and healthy individuals genetically at risk to develop hypertension later in life, show cognitive abnormalities. They further exhibit magnified neural and vascular reactions to aversive stimuli. Taken together, this evidence suggests that abnormal functioning of cognitive control mechanisms may underlie the enhanced reactions to aversive events, which may result in persistent hypertension.The current proposal is based on two phases: first, a series of behavioural experiments will examine attention-emotion interactions in healthy participants. These experiments will examine which stages in emotional processing may be modulated by attention, as well as possible interaction between expectancy and attention biases. At a second step, research will focus on identifying neuro-cognitive abnormalities in individuals at high-risk to develop EH. To this aim, the tasks established in the first phase will be employed in healthy individuals at high- or low-risk to develop EH. This phase will be based on simultaneous measurement of fMRI and continuous blood pressure in order to assess the impact of attention on immediate vascular responses to aversive stimuli.The proposed experiments are expected to shed light on deficient cognitive mechanisms of emotion modulation predisposing to EH. The use of cutting-edge measurement methods and advanced analysis is expected to provide much needed new data on how the brain controls reactions to aversive information in health and disease.
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