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PhD defence

The continuum of consciousness in cardiovascular stress research: An experimental expedition

  • M.M. van der Ploeg
Tuesday 25 September 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Studies on the psychological and physiological stress-responses have been unable to fully clarify the underlying relationship. The unconscious stress hypothesis proposes that stress-related processes outside of awareness may negatively affect cardiovascular (CV) health by activating and even prolonging physiological stress-responses.

This thesis provides a starting point in the exploration of the role of processes outside of awareness in cardiovascular stress research. The eight chapters discuss the findings of a systematic review and a series of experiments, using subliminal priming paradigms and fear conditioning, and address various theoretical and methodological issues to benefit future studies in this area. It seems evident that what is outside of awareness may influence the physiological state, but not necessarily all health-relevant parameters. The physiological changes related to unconscious stress appears to differ between the various stressful stimuli and stressors used.

This expedition exposed an abundance of options available to further assess and influence processes outside of awareness that can be applied in the context of psychological stress and health.


  • Prof.dr. J.F. Brosschot


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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