Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Physiology and Health
Katrina Jackson - Virginia State University
Co-Author(s): Ellis Jackson, Imani Wilson, and Lauren Valentine
Health disparities continue to rise for African Americans in numerous categories of well-being including cardiovascular health (CDC, 2011). In an attempt to reduce the widening divide, an examination of the relationship between cognitive skills and cardiovascular disease must be conducted. The present study examined the effects of cognitive skills (high, moderate, low) on cardiovascular reactivity to stress. It was hypothesized that participants with poor cognitive skills would have greater cardiovascular responses to the stressor. The participants for the study were 97 African American college students between the ages of 18-27. Cognitive skills were taken from a battery that is being developed as the Gibson Cognitive Skills Test. The cognitive skills assessed in the study were processing speed, visual memory and auditory memory. Cardiovascular measures were taken as the participants viewed a racially noxious scene on videotape. The scene depicted the horrendous conditions that Africans experienced as they were transported to America for slavery. Measurements for systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate were taken during three periods: the pre-stressor period (prior to viewing the scene), the stressor period (as the participants viewed the scene), and the recovery period (after the participants viewed the scene). A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to examine the effects of scores on the cognitive tasks (high, moderate, low) and BMI (normal, overweight and obese) on each cardiovascular measure. The MANOVA revealed that processing speed had a significant effect on diastolic blood pressure during the pre-stressor period, F(2,88) = 3.46, p< .05. In addition, visual memory had a significant effect on systolic blood pressure during the pre-stressor, F(2,88) = 3.50, p< .05 and stressor, F(2,88) = 5.68, p< .05 periods and heart rate during the pre-stressor, F(2,88) = 7.84, p< .05 and recovery periods, F(2,88) = 5.21, p< .05. These findings indicate that participants with the lowest level of cognitive efficiency were more emotionally aroused by the scene than their higher scoring counterparts. This project expands our knowledge of cardiovascular responses to stress by examining the influence of cognition in the process. A continuation of this research would assist with providing a deeper understanding of the impact of cognition on obesity and cardiovascular disease. Continuing down this research path will lead to determine why this correlation exists and possibly to create a real world solutions.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This project is supported by the Virginia State University HBCU-UP grant.
Faculty Advisor: Vernessa R. Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I participated in data collection, data analysis, and writing the abstract.