A Stressed Brain Linked to ‘Broken Heart’ Syndrome

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, March 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) – The brain may play a role in so-called broken heart syndrome, a new study suggests.

Formally known as Takotsubo syndrome (TTS), it is a temporary – but potentially fatal – heart disease brought on by stressful situations and emotions.

In this study, published on March 25 in the European Heart Journal, the researchers wanted to know if increased metabolic activity associated with stress in the brain might increase the risk of the syndrome, so they analyzed brain imaging scans of 41 people who later developed the syndrome and 63 who did not. not done.

The scans were performed on the patients for other medical reasons.

“Areas of the brain that have higher metabolic activity tend to be used more. Therefore, higher activity in the brain centers associated with stress suggests that the individual has a more active stress response, ”said study lead author Dr Ahmed. Tawakol, director of nuclear cardiology and co-director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.


The researchers found that increased activity in the brain’s amygdala predicted subsequent TTS, as well as the timing of the syndrome. For example, people with the highest activity in the amygdala developed the syndrome within a year of their brain scans, while those with intermediate activity in the amygdala developed the syndrome several years later.

“We show that TTS occurs not only because one encounters a rare and terribly disturbing event – such as the death of a spouse or a child, as classic examples show. On the contrary, people with High stress-related brain activity appear to be set to develop TTS – and can develop the syndrome upon exposure to more common stressors, even a routine colonoscopy or a bone fracture, ”Tawakol said in a press release of the hospital.

The study also found an association between stress-related brain activity and bone marrow activity in individuals.

Bone marrow produces different types of blood cells that carry oxygen, increase immune responses, and clot blood, so stress-related brain activity can influence the activity of cells that affect heart health, researchers say. .


Steps to reduce stress-related brain activity may reduce the risk of the syndrome.

“Studies should test whether such approaches for decreasing stress-associated brain activity decrease the risk of TTS recurrence in patients who have had episodes of TTS before,” Tawakol said.

He also highlighted the need for more studies to examine how stress reduction or drug therapy to reduce stress-related brain activity could benefit heart health.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more information on broken heart syndrome.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, press release, March 25, 2021

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