Skin could hold answer


Newcastle researchers believe tiny changes on the surface of your skin may be the answer to early identification of stress, anxiety and depression before symptoms even present themselves.

The new research could transform targeted prevention measures to improve mental wellbeing and ease pressure on the nation’s health system in the future.

Led by the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, the findings honed the use of ‘acoustic startle’ as a marker of resilience.

“When we hear a sudden, loud sound – for example, a gunshot – we naturally respond with instant sweat, a spike in heart rate and disrupted breathing, known as acoustic startle,” lead author, associate professor Eugene Nalivaiko, said.

“We can measure stress response with body sensors, the simplest being a skin conductance sensor attached to your fingertip, which picks up the activity of sweat glands – one of the fastest stress response systems in [the] human body.

“If the same noxious sound is presented repeatedly, our stress response declines.

“We get used to the same stressor and essentially ‘habituate’ or get used to a sound.”

Mr Nalivaiko added how fast people become accustomed to the same stressor had a direct link to resilience – those with high levels habituate quickly, while low were slower or not at all.

Previous studies have found this habituation rate can indicate whether a person has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or not and can also identify if an individual has anxiety and depression.

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