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September 1964

Study in Psychophysiology of Muscle Tension: I. Response Specificity

Author Affiliations

Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training, Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1964;11(3):322-330. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1964.01720270094011

It has been generally assumed that psychosomatic disorders result from a heightened state of reactivity or chronic excitation of a definite organ system, particularly in response to appropriate psychological stressors. Malmo and Shagass9 provided confirmatory evidence for this view by demonstrating that individuals with psychosomatic symptoms manifest heightened stress responsivity in the relevant physiological system. This phenomenon they termed "symptom specificity." Patients with cardiovascular symptoms exhibited greater heart rate, heart rate varia bility, and respiratory variability than individuals without such symptoms. In comparison, those with head and neck complaints were characterized by abnormally high muscle action potentials in the corresponding areas. Unanswered by this study was the question whether the heightened reactivity might not be a consequence of the state of abnormality.

Lacey and his co-workers7,8 carried out a series of studies which indicated that a wide variety of subjects without psychosomatic