Impact of early life adversity on EMG stress reactivity of the trapezius muscle

Rosan Luijcks*, Catherine J. Vossen, Suzanne Roggeveen, Jim van Os, Hermie J. Hermens, Richel Lousberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Human and animal research indicates that exposure to early life adversity increases stress sensitivity later in life. While behavioral markers of adversity-induced stress sensitivity have been suggested, physiological markers remain to be elucidated. It is known that trapezius muscle activity increases during stressful situations. The present study examined to what degree early life adverse events experienced during early childhood (0-11 years) and adolescence (12-17 years) moderate experimentally induced electromyographic (EMG) stress activity of the trapezius muscles, in an experimental setting. In a general population sample (n = 115), an anticipatory stress effect was generated by presenting a single unpredictable and uncontrollable electrical painful stimulus at t = 3minutes. Subjects were unaware of the precise moment of stimulus delivery and its intensity level. Linear and nonlinear time courses in EMG activity were modeled using multilevel analysis. The study protocol included 2 experimental sessions (t = 0 and t = 6 months) allowing for examination of reliability.Results show that EMG stress reactivity during the stress paradigm was consistently stronger in people with higher levels of early life adverse events; early childhood adversity had a stronger moderating effect than adolescent adversity. The impact of early life adversity on EMG stress reactivity may represent a reliable facet that can be used in both clinical and nonclinical studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4745
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • adverse childhood events
  • childhood adversity
  • EMG (electromyography)
  • psychophysiology
  • stress

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