Experimentally Induced Stress Validated by EMG Activity

Rosan Luijcks*, Hermie J. Hermens, Lonneke Bodar, Catherine J. Vossen, Jim van Os, Richel Lousberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Experience of stress may lead to increased electromyography (EMG) activity in specific muscles compared to a non-stressful situation. The main aim of this study was to develop and validate a stress-EMG paradigm in which a single uncontrollable and unpredictable nociceptive stimulus was presented. EMG activity of the trapezius muscles was the response of interest. In addition to linear time effects, non-linear EMG time courses were also examined. Taking into account the hierarchical structure of the dataset, a multilevel random regression model was applied. The stress paradigm, executed in N = 70 subjects, consisted of a 3-minute baseline measurement, a 3-minute pre-stimulus stress period and a 2-minute post-stimulus phase. Subjects were unaware of the precise moment of stimulus delivery and its intensity level. EMG activity during the entire experiment was conform a priori expectations: the pre-stimulus phase showed a significantly higher mean EMG activity level compared to the other two phases, and an immediate EMG response to the stimulus was demonstrated. In addition, the analyses revealed significant non-linear EMG time courses in all three phases. Linear and quadratic EMG time courses were significantly modified by subjective anticipatory stress level, measured just before the start of the stress task. Linking subjective anticipatory stress to EMG stress reactivity revealed that subjects with a high anticipatory stress level responded with more EMG activity during the pre-stimulus stress phase, whereas subjects with a low stress level showed an inverse effect. Results suggest that the stress paradigm presented here is a valid test to quantify individual differences in stress susceptibility. Further studies with this paradigm are required to demonstrate its potential use in mechanistic clinical studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere95215
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2014

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