Biological stress responses in high and low trait anxious students

Denise D. Davis, Stephen R. Dunlop, Philip Shea, Harry Brittain, Hugh C. Hendrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In an investigation of biological indicators of stress in normal humans, undergraduate psychology students were differentiated on trait anxiety and assessed under baseline, preexam (stress), and postexam conditions. Assessment at each condition involved drawing 20 ml of blood, followed by self-reporting for selected questionnaires. Self-reports included state anxiety, general psychological symptomatology, dysfunctional attitudes, academic confidence, sleep patterns, and intake of drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. Blood was analyzed for whole blood serotonin content, plasma MHPG, and platelet imipramine binding. Baseline differences between high and low trait anxious students on biological measures were significant only for whole blood serotonin content. Variation across situational conditions was significant for whole blood serotonin, with an increase under the stressful condition for both anxiety groups. Thus, serotonin is highlighted as an important factor in the human response to stress, whereas expected differences in MHPG were not observed. The serotonergic response to stress was not explained by changes in psychological or physical state variables. Changes in serotonin content were positively correlated with changes in platelet impramine binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-851
Number of pages9
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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