The University of Wisconsin Mind-Body Center was created in 1999 with a $10.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The Center brought together researchers at the Institute on Aging, the Health Emotions Research Institute, and the Wisconsin Center for Affective Science. The collective goal was to study how emotional, psychosocial, and neurobiological factors interact to influence unfolding profiles of physical and mental health, in both human and animal models. Over the past 3 years new data have been collected on various longitudinal samples, as well as samples of women with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Men and women with more positive relationship profiles are less likely to have high allostatic load (wear and tear on multiple physiological systems) than those with more negative relationships profiles. Because allostatic load predicts ill health (cardiovascular disease, cognitive and functional decline, mortality), these findings suggest possible protective effects associated with having good quality social relationships.
- Older women with higher levels of purpose in life and personal growth have significantly high levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). In addition, older women with more positive social ties to others have lower waist-hip ratios, lower weight, and lower levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (a marker for diabetes). Alternatively, higher levels of anger and anxiety are linked with higher levels of glycosylated hemoglobin among older women.
- Men and women who report higher levels of emotional, intellectual and recreational intimacy with their spouses show stronger antibody response to influenza vaccine. Among women only, higher levels of sexual intimacy are also linked with stronger antibody response.
- Probing the role of brain function, middle-aged men and women completed
assessments of positive emotions as well as purpose, growth, and mastery prior
to EEG (electroencephalographic) assessment. Those showing greater left than
in frontal parts of the brain reported higher levels of well-being. Frontal
asymmetry continued to explain variation in overall well-being even after
adjusting for the influence of positive affect. In addition, those individuals
showing this pattern of brain activity had higher levels of antibody titers
in response to an influenza vaccine.
- Among men and women whose EEG was monitored while viewing emotionally arousing pictures, it was found that those showing greater relative left-sided activation in frontal regions showed faster recovery following a negative emotional event, as reflected in peripheral physiological measures. These findings support the idea of a frontally mediated mechanism in automatic emotion regulation.
- Significant positive associations were found between high psychological well-being and good quality social relationships and vigorous antibody response to influenza or hepatitis A immunization. Such findings point to beneficial associations between positive psychosocial factors and cell-mediated immune function.
- Women with fibromyalgia may have disabling chronic pain and severe fatigue. However, fatigue appears to be a better predictor of well-being than the chronic pain. These findings may help direct early treatment toward alleviating this severe fatigue, rather than trying to primarily relive the chronic pain.