This time last year many our members were soaking up the sunshine in Mallorca at the 40th international Stress and Anxiety Research Society (STAR) conference. What a difference a year makes – this summer we couldn’t dream of such a non-socially distanced encounter. At least we can reminisce, and hope in the near future we will be on tour once again and meeting up with our colleagues from abroad!
Some of our members presenting at STAR 2019. Left to right, top to bottom: Aisling Costello, Annie Ginty, Grace McMahon, Stephen Gallagher, Brenda O'Connell, Siobhán Howard, Siobhán Griffin, Adam O'Riordan.
Many of our members took part in a symposium on cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) and stress, with colleagues in Maynooth and Baylor University (Texas). This informative session looked at factors influencing cardiovascular responses to stress, including: attachment (Grace), Type D personality (Adam), gratitude (Brenda, Maynooth), rumination (Aisling), and reappraisal (Annie, Baylor). This session concluded with an insightful discussion led by Siobhán Howard on what factors are known to influence cardiovascular reactivity, and where we can go from here. An interesting discussion point was the inclusion of a second stress exposure (inspired by Prof Brian Hughes, NUIG). Future research should include a second stress exposure; this way we can examine how individual differences can influence adaption or habituation to stress. When you think about it, how often do we encounter a once-off, novel, stressor in life? Looking past a single stress exposure, and how we respond to subsequent stressors, could really help identify what is indeed a “protective factor” and what may be detrimental to health.
Other lab members presented in oral sessions, including research on manipulating the emotional context of a stress task (Siobhán Griffin), and examining social support and depression in breast cancer patients (Stephen). Likewise, we had many poster presentations by our PhD students across two days!
A particular highlight of this trip was the conference dinner. Grace, a third year PhD student, was awarded the prestigious STAR student development award for her research on well-being in adolescences, which looks at the role of social relationships and stressful life events. Well done to Grace on securing this award!
Grace McMahon, accepting the STAR student development award, 2019.