Scientists have tracked the release of nerve growth factor in saliva (sNGF) which is linked to survival of neurons that may be a key player in understanding the body's response to stress.
Lead author Heidemarie Laurent, assistant professor of psychology with the University of Oregon, said that sNGF appears to represent a unique facet of the way a person responds to acute stress, with individual differences in sNGF related to both short-term and more lasting measures of psychological health.
She said that sNGF also appears to be related to resilience rather than risk.
Granger and Laurent recently reported that conflict with a romantic partner caused sNGF to rise in parallel with the two main components of the "fight or flight" stress response - the autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Most significantly, the researchers found that the more a person's sNGF level increased in response to stress, the lower their conflict-related negative emotions.
Granger said that one of the things that makes sNGF so different is that it is related to positive attributes so rather than being a risk marker, sNGF has the potential to index resilience.
The study has been published in journal Psychosomatic Medicine.