About CERG

The Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) seeks to identify the key mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of physical on cardiac health in the context of disease prevention and treatment. Named the K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine under Professor Ulrik Wisløff's leadership in 2011, CERG uses both top-down and bottom-up approaches to combat lifestyle-related disease.

Hjerneaktivitet – «the missing link» mellom stress og utviklingen av kardiovaskulær sykdom?

Linda ErnstsenI løpet av de siste 30 årene, har en stor og variert mengde forskning undersøkt sammenhengen mellom psykososialt stress og utviklingen av kardiovaskulær sykdom. Mekanismene bak denne påviste sammenhengen er ikke fullt ut forstått, men flere studier støtter sammenhengen mellom økt stressnivå og betennelsestilstander i blodårene. Mange av hjerneområdene som er involvert i bearbeiding av følelser er også involvert i reguleringen av betennelsesprosessene i kroppen. I 2014 studerte en gruppe forskere ved Universitetet i Pittsburg 157 friske frivillige voksne som ble bedt om å regulere reaksjonene de fikk av å se på ubehagelige bilder mens hjerneaktiviteten deres ble målt med funksjonell avbildning. De fant at personer som viste større hjerneaktivitet når de regulerte negative følelser hadde forhøyede blodnivåer av interleukin-6, en av kroppens proinflammatoriske cytokiner som regulerer immunforsvaret og spiller en rolle for kognitiv funksjon. Videre observerte de økt tykkelse i halsarterieveggen, en markør av aterosklerose (åreforkalkning). Resultatene var uavhengig av alder, kjønn, rase, røykestatus, og andre kjente kardiovaskulære risikofaktorer.

Forrige uke publiserte det anerkjente tidsskriftet Lancet resultater fra en amerikansk studie av 293 mentalt frisk deltakere uten kardiovaskulær sykdom som gjennomgikk kliniske undersøkelser og scanning av hjernen. Deltakerne ble deretter fulgt i fire år med tanke på nyoppstått kardiovaskulær sykdom. Forskerne fra Harvard Medical School ønsket å studere om aktiviteten i amygdala, en del av hjernen som er involvert i emosjonell prosessering, kunne forutsi kardiovaskulære hendelser. Resultatene viste, som forskerne antok, at høy aktivitet i amygdala hadde en selvstendig sammenheng med risikoen for kardiovaskulære hendelser, og at 39% av denne sammenhengen ble forklart ved arteriell betennelse. De fant også at mesteparten av sammenhengen mellom opplevd stress (målt ved spørreskjema) og arteriell betennelse ble forklart av aktivitet i amygdala. Et annet interessant funn var at aktivitet i beinmargen forklarte 46% av sammenhengen mellom aktivitet i amygdala og arteriell betennelse. Aktivering av benmargen fører til frigivelse av inflammatoriske celler som deltar i en aterosklerotiske prosessen i blodårene.

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Kort oppsummert utgjør resultatene fra denne studien en viktig brikke i puslespillet som kan forklare hvordan psykososialt stress setter seg under huden. Studien minner oss også om viktigheten av å takle stress i hverdagen. Forhold som hjelper kroppen til å opprettholde balansen er regelmessig mosjon, tilstrekkelig søvn og regelmessig inntak av sunn mat. Avslapningsteknikker som mindfulness, meditasjon og yoga har også vist seg å ha positiv effekt på stressnivået. Og sist men ikke minst, ikke glem å le. For som kjent, en god latter forlenger også livet.

Linda Ernstsen, førsteamanuensis CERG

Brain activity – the missing link between stress and development of cardiovascular disease?

Linda ErnstsenOver the past 30 years, a large and varied body of research has examined the role of chronic psychosocial stress in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The mechanisms behind this association are not fully understood, but several studies support the link between increased stress levels and inflammation. Further, that inflammation is directly involved in the atherosclerotic process in the arteries. Many of the brain areas involved in emotions are also involved in sensing and regulating levels of inflammation in the body. In 2014 a group of researchers at the University in Pittsburg studied 157 healthy adult volunteers who were asked to regulate their emotional reactions to unpleasant pictures while their brain activity was measured with functional imaging. They found that individuals who showed greater brain activation when regulating their negative emotions also exhibited elevated blood levels of interleukin-6, one of the body’s pro-inflammatory cytokines that regulates the immune system and plays a role in cognitive function. Further they observed an increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, a marker of atherosclerosis. The results were independent of age, sex, race, smoking status, and other known CVD risk factors.

Last week Lancet published results from an American study of 293 mentally healthy participants without cardiovascular disease who underwent clinical measurements and scan of the brain. The participants where then followed for four years. The researchers from Harvard Medical School wanted to assess if activity in amygdala, a part of the brain that is involved in emotional processing, could predict cardiovascular events. And they did. The results showed that high activity in amygdala was independently associated with cardiovascular events, and that 39% of this association was explained by arterial inflammation. They also found that most of the association between perceived stress (measured by questionnaires) and arterial inflammation was explained by amygdala activity. Another interesting finding was that bone marrow activity explained 46% of the association between amygdala activity and arterial inflammation. Activation of the bone marrow leads to release of inflammatory cells taking part in in the atherosclerotic process.

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In turn, the results from this study reveals an important piece of the puzzle on how psychosocial stress gets under the skin. It also reminds us of the importance of coping with stress in our daily life. Some important behaviors that help our bodies to keep up this balance are regular exercise, getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods.  Practicing mindfulness, mediation and yoga have also shown to have positive effect on perceived stress levels. And last but not least, do not forget to laugh. Laughter also adds year to your lifespan.

Linda Ernstsen, Associate Professor CERG

Regular exerciser or a weekend warrior: Is there a difference?

fitness_workout_pixabay_wokandapixWe all know that physical activity is good for us.  For that reason, the public health agencies around the world recommend that we undertake regular physical activity.  The recommendations for physical activity are consistent for adults around the world and stipulate that weekly we should accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of physical activity at vigorous intensity or some combination of the two that results in similar caloric expenditure.  But does it matter if you do the 150 minutes of recommended activity in one day or is it better to do it over the course of the week?

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Er nordmenn født med ski på beina?

cross-country-skiingLangrenn har lange tradisjoner i Norge, og nordmenn har kjempet og konkurrert på høyeste internasjonale nivå i all tid. Det er ingen tvil om at Norge er en av de beste langrennsnasjonene i verden. Og de beste skiløperne i dag blir behandlet som “popstjerne ikoner” av befolkningen og media. Continue reading

Are the Norwegians born with skis on their feet?

cross-country-skiingCross country skiing has long traditions in Norway, and Norwegians are known to perform cross-country skiing at the highest international level. There is no doubt that Norway is one of the best cross country skiing nations in the world. And the best skiers today are treated as “pop star icons” by the Norwegian population and the media.

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Project fosters Norway – Brazil academic connection

img_20161211_121914756The general benefits of physical exercise and physical activity are widely known by the general population nowadays. Moving is good for your body and mind – this sentence is considered a universal and unquestionable truth. But why is it true? And for whom is the exercise good? What type of exercise? Which gears of our organism benefit and how it works? These are only a few questions that sport and exercise scientists seek to clarify by means of extensive researches in the most renowned universities worldwide.

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Holiday weight gain–what can we do?

Anne Berit Johnsen. Photo: Lasse Berre.

I have sat down at the desk to write blog and trying to enjoy a little extra with a cup of coffee and I have pre started on my favorite Christmas chocolate. In a very few days Christmas is coming up and it is time to celebrate with all our favorite Christmas food and plenty of it!!!! I guess I am not the only one that is planning to go back to my normal healthier diet in January, but right now it is all about Christmas and food temptations. Still it has crossed my mind that I might struggle a bit with the extra pounds gained over Christmas.

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