BACKGROUND & AIMS:
Unexplained dyspeptic symptoms are associated with changes in gastric sensorimotor function and several psychopathologic dimensions, including anxiety. It is unclear whether this reflects common predisposition or a causal relationship. The aim of this study was to investigate whether experimentally induced anxiety would alter gastric sensorimotor function in health.
Fourteen subjects underwent a gastric barostat study to assess gastric sensitivity and accommodation. Eighteen subjects underwent a 10-minute satiety drinking test (30 mL/min) with registration of epigastric symptoms on a visual analogue scale (VAS) at 2-minute intervals. Emotional context was modulated for 10 minutes at the start of each experiment by combined projection of validated facial expressions and an audiotape recalling a neutral or an anxious autobiographical experience. Anxiety levels were assessed using a VAS and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
VAS and STAI scores confirmed efficacy of anxiety induction. During the anxiety condition, gastric compliance was significantly decreased (57 +/- 5 vs 40 +/- 5 mL/mm Hg; P < .01). Intraballoon pressures inducing discomfort during gastric distention were not altered, but the corresponding volume (630 +/- 47 vs 489 +/- 39 mL; P < .005) was significantly lower. Meal-induced relaxation was inhibited during the anxiety condition and this persisted for the 60-minute measurement (157 +/- 29 vs 100 +/- 24 mL; P < .05). During the satiety drinking test, the anxiety condition was associated with significantly higher scores for satiety, fullness, and bloating.
Experimentally induced anxiety alters gastric sensorimotor function, suggesting that psychological factors may play a causal role in the pathogenesis of some dyspeptic symptoms and mechanisms.