Relationship between challenge-induced physiological responses and postprandial gastrin release in normal, healthy males

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Gail H. Ironson - Committee Chair


Observations from human and animal studies suggest that emotional stress may play a role in peptic ulcer disease (PUD) through adrenergic stimulation of gastrin secretion. The present study examined the relationship between physiological reactivity to behavioral challenge and postprandial gastrin release in eight healthy, normotensive men between the ages of 21-34. A repeated measures design was employed in which subjects were evaluated during three separate sessions presented in counterbalanced order at 7-12 day intervals. The three sessions consisted of meal alone, stressors alone (mental arithmetic and evaluated speaking tasks), and meal and stressors. Physiological responses differed across sessions for plasma gastrin, blood pressure (SBP and DBP), heart rate (HR), and plasma norepinephrine (NE), but not for plasma epinephrine (EPI). Behavioral challenge alone had no effect on fasting gastrin levels, but postprandial gastrin release was greater when the meal was accompanied by stressful tasks than when the meal was administered without challenge. Similarly, the combination of meal and stressors elicited increases in NE, SBP, and HR that exceeded those observed during meal only or tasks only. Correlational analyses revealed that peak NE and HR responses were significantly related to postprandial gastrin levels during the meal and tasks session. The findings indicate that heightened sympathetic nervous system activity induced by stressful situations is an important factor in the physiological regulation of meal-stimulated gastrin secretion in healthy individuals. Future research examining stress reactivity during meal consumption should be directed toward ulcer patients in order to investigate a possible pathogenic association between PUD and stress.


Psychology, Physiological

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