Title

The Effect of Past Trauma on the Body's Responses to Stress

School Name

Governor's School for Science & Mathematics

Grade Level

12th Grade

Presentation Topic

Psychology and Sociology

Presentation Type

Mentored

Mentor

Mentor: Keri Weed, University of South Carolina - Aiken

Oral Presentation Award

2nd Place

Abstract

Stress signals go through many systems within the body including the autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system. These systems work to elicit and quell responses from the brain and body in the occurrence of stress. Stress has long been found to be the cause of common cardiovascular diseases. However, the manner of response due to stress varies among individuals because each individual has different characteristics such as race, age, gender, and even past trauma. As a result, there has been no effective way to identify groups of individuals who are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This study specifically investigated how past trauma will either inoculate or sensitize the victim to stress by exposing two groups of participants – No Trauma and Trauma groups – to physical and psychological stressor tasks. Their responses were recorded and compared in terms of electrodermal activity (EDA), heart rate, and their perceptions of anxiety. Subjects within the Trauma group showed higher responses in every task with few exceptions. These results supported the hypothesis that victims of past trauma will be sensitized to stress. The small sample size of seven participants accounted for almost all discrepancies discovered during the study. Due to the nature of the research, the parasympathetic nervous system was not extensively studied; further research into this system could potentially discover ways to lower accumulated stress within the body and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Location

Wall 322

Start Date

3-25-2017 10:00 AM

Presentation Format

Oral and Written

Group Project

No

COinS
 
Mar 25th, 10:00 AM

The Effect of Past Trauma on the Body's Responses to Stress

Wall 322

Stress signals go through many systems within the body including the autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system. These systems work to elicit and quell responses from the brain and body in the occurrence of stress. Stress has long been found to be the cause of common cardiovascular diseases. However, the manner of response due to stress varies among individuals because each individual has different characteristics such as race, age, gender, and even past trauma. As a result, there has been no effective way to identify groups of individuals who are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This study specifically investigated how past trauma will either inoculate or sensitize the victim to stress by exposing two groups of participants – No Trauma and Trauma groups – to physical and psychological stressor tasks. Their responses were recorded and compared in terms of electrodermal activity (EDA), heart rate, and their perceptions of anxiety. Subjects within the Trauma group showed higher responses in every task with few exceptions. These results supported the hypothesis that victims of past trauma will be sensitized to stress. The small sample size of seven participants accounted for almost all discrepancies discovered during the study. Due to the nature of the research, the parasympathetic nervous system was not extensively studied; further research into this system could potentially discover ways to lower accumulated stress within the body and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease.