Encounter with an acute stressor elicits multiple physiological and psychological response trajectories that spread at different times-scales and directions. Associating a single physiological response trajectory with a specific psychological response has remained a challenge, due to putative interactions between the different stress response pathways. Hence, multidimensional analysis of stress response trajectories may be better suited to account for response variability. To test this, 96 healthy female participants underwent a robust acute laboratory stress induction procedure while their psychological [positive and negative affect (PANAS)] and physiological [heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), saliva cortisol (CORT)] responses were recorded before, during and after stress. Combining these data using unsupervised group-based multi-trajectory modelling uncovered three latent classes that best accounted for variability across psychological and physiological stress response trajectories. These classes were labelled based on their psychological response patterns as: A prototypical response group that depict a moderate increase in negative and decrease in positive affect during stress, with both patterns recovering after stress offset (n = 55); A heightened response group that depict excessive affective responses during stress that recover after stress offset (n = 24); and a lack of recovery group that depict a moderate increase in negative and decrease in positive affect during stress, with both patterns not recovering after stress offset (n = 17). With respect to physiological acute stress trajectories, all three groups exhibited comparable increases in HR and CORT during stress that recovered after stress offset, yet only the prototypical group expressed the expected stress-induced reduction in HRV, while the other two groups exhibited blunted HRV response. Critically, focusing on a single physiological stress response trajectory, including HRV, did not account for psychological response variability and vice versa. Taken together, a multi-trajectory approach may better account for the multidimensionality of acute stress response and uncover latent associations between psychological and physiological response patterns. Compared to the other two groups, the prototypical group also exhibited significantly lower overall stress scores based on the DASS-21 scale. This, alongside the uncovered response patterns, suggest that latent psycho-physiological associations may shed light on stress response adaptivity or lack thereof.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (grant# 738/20 ) and a Joy Ventures Neuro-Wellness Research Grant, both awarded to Dr. Admon.
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd
- Acute stress
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Multi-trajectory modelling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry