Anterior cingulate activity correlates with blood pressure during stress


  • We thank V. Andrew Stenger, who programmed the reverse spiral pulse sequence for fMRI data acquisition; Michael J. Eddy, who helped to design, develop, and implement the Stroop color-word interference task; and Hugo D. Critchley, who commented on a draft of the manuscript. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center (NHLBI 65111 and 65112), by NHLBI-NRSA 1-F32-71333-01, and by NIMH 1-K01-070616-01.

Address reprint requests to: Peter J. Gianaros, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail:


The anterior cingulate cortex presumptively regulates blood pressure reactions to behavioral stressors. There is little evidence in humans, however, that stressor-evoked changes in blood pressure correlate with concurrent changes in anterior cingulate activity. Using fMRI, we tested whether changes in mean arterial blood pressure correlate with ongoing changes in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) activation in 9 women and 11 men who completed a stressful Stroop color-word interference task. Higher mean arterial pressure during the Stroop task correlated with greater BOLD activation in two regions of the cingulate cortex (perigenual and mid-anterior) and in other networked brain regions, including the insula, thalamus, and periaqueductal gray. These results support the hypothesis that the anterior cingulate cortex regulates blood pressure reactions to behavioral stressors in humans.