Friday, February 3, 2023

How Does Stress Affect The Brain

Protective Effects Of Parental Care

How stress affects your brain – Madhumita Murgia

Animal models reinforce the notion that strong maternal care is key to good emotional, social, and cognitive development. Indeed, good maternal care can overcome some of the adverse effects of prenatal stress. Maternal care has long-lasting and even transgenerational effects that are epigenetic, that is, the product of experiential regulation of genetic expression. These animal-model studies have now offered some evidence that epigenetic changes seen in relation to poor maternal care in animal models can be seen in abused human subjects in their white blood cells. Such lasting, epigenetic effects of early-life adversity are evident in the increased incidence of obesity, chronic inflammation, poor dental health as a manifestation of that inflammation, and increased blood pressure.

Genetic differences also make a contribution, since certain variants of common genes increase vulnerability to effects of adverse early-life experiences. However, these reactive alleles may also give rise to better outcomes in a nurturing environment. Individuals with these alleles have been termed orchid children, whereas those with less-reactive alleles are dandelion children, who can do reasonably well in any environment.13,14

Finally, consistency as well as quality of parental care is important for successful cognitive and social development. Exposure to novelty against a backdrop of stable maternal care is key.

How Does Stress Change Your Brain

Stress, many doctors and researchers would argue, is an equal risk to the brain as drugs, and nobody is immune. We already know that stress over time makes you vulnerable to a number of diseases and conditions, but what about the brain in particular?

We once thought that after a brain cell died, that was ityou were born with all of the brain cells you would ever have, so they made it clear you wanted to protect your brain. That was before we discovered neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and understood how the brain grows over time.

Modern life presents a whole new challenge to the stress management systems of the brain, but there are ways to overcome the effects of stress on the brain.

Diverse Consequences Of Early

Brain development is a continuous process throughout life that goes through sensitive periods during which stressors and nurturing experiences can have lasting effects. Many adult diseases such as cardiovascular disease and depression have their origins in adverse early-life experiences, such as neglect and physical and sexual abuse, as was shown in the Centers for Disease Control Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.10 This study, carried out on a middle-class population in California, emphasized the fact that dysfunctional families and children are found at all socioeconomic levels. The range of physical, behavioral, and mental health disorders shown in Figure 1 is a dramatic demonstration of the power of early-life abuse and neglect to affect lifelong behavior and brain and body health. Yet this is the extreme end of a spectrum of influences research and practical experience must help define the good and the bad.

As far as the negative consequences, animal models have taught us that a mothers prenatal stress can impair features of normal brain development and that prolonged separation of infant from mother also impairs other aspects of brain development and function. Furthermore, inconsistent maternal care and maternal anxietyfor example, from food insecurityproduce anxiety in offspring and appear to contribute to metabolic syndrome and predisposition to diabetes, which itself has adverse effects on the brain.

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What Are The Different Types Of Stress

There are two main types of stress. Eustress, which is positive stress and distress, which is negative stress.

Eustress is the most common form of stress. You may feel it before performing in front of people or taking a test or after having an argument with someone. The factors that lead to eustress only result in short-lived changes in stress hormone levels in the body. Normally, this type of stress does not last long and will not have long-term negative health effects.Eustress is actually thought to be necessary for healthy development. This is because it teaches the brain how to respond to stress in a healthy way. However, being exposed to any type of stress for a long period of time can lead to serious health problems.Distress may be acute or chronic .

Acute stress is caused by events like the loss of a friend or family member or the breakup of a relationship. These events have a greater impact on the body than everyday stress. If not managed properly, the stress from these events can lead to negative brain changes. However, this stress can be managed if you are in a supportive environment and have positive interactions with others that help to decrease stress levels.

Effects Of Stress: It Can Impact Your Ability To Retain Information

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Stress affects the hippocampusa structure important for learning and memoryaltering how neurons connect with each other, which affects both your short- and long- term memory, Dr. Merrill explains. Stress makes you less able to focus to learn new things and also more forgetful so its harder to remember them, he says.

Ultimately, these changes can affect cognitive function, including changes in learning, memory, and emotional well-being, says Sundari Chetty, PhD, neuroscientist, memory researcher, and head of the Chetty lab at Stanford School of Medicine and co-author of a study on how stress affects brain structure and function, published in Molecular Psychiatry. These brain changes could potentially contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, she explains.

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Q: How Does Stress Affect The Brain

Chronic stress can make your brain behave in an Alzheimers-like manner. Stress adversely affects a key structure in the brain, the hippocampus, leading to impaired memory and problems with orientation and sense of direction.

These brain changes may have evolved to protect against the memory of traumatic and stressful events, like being attacked by a predator but short-term memory loss hinders todays brain-intensive lifestyle. We all know the frustration of forgetting where we put our keys, names of people we just met or other recent events.

What Influences Our Capacity For Coping With Stress

Several factors influence our capacity for coping with stress:

  • The presence of a social network
  • Our skill and confidence in assessing a complex situation and then developing and evaluating solutions
  • Personal variables such as physical health, experience, confidence, anxiety threshold and problem-solving abilities .

Stressful events are a universal part of the human experience. You may or may not be able to change your current situation, but you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.

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Stress Is A Natural Response

Stress is a normal response that happens to the body when youre faced with unfamiliar or challenging circumstances. Youre perfectly built to deal with short-term stress. The human body has adapted to take advantage of it. The problem with stress is that the kind of stressors humans deal with has evolved over the last 200,000 years. Not only has the nature of stressors changed, but so has the frequency and duration of the bodys stress response.

Stress for early humans was escaping a large predator or fighting off an animal for food. Once the threat was gone their bodies returned to a normal resting state, returning to calm and homeostasis. Today, the stress you deal with includes bills, jobs, school, family, friends, poor health, social injustices, potential war, politics, and financial instability. Its all around you, 24 hours and 7 days a week. The chronic stress response is harmful to your health.

How To Calm Down: Know The Effects Of Stress Are Reversible

How Stress Affects the Brain

The good news: Research indicates the brain has a natural ability to recover from stress. Generally speaking, the brain has a substantial degree of plasticity, meaning that the brain is quite malleable, Chetty says, adding that if you can remove or lessen the source of the stress, you can reverse any changes and return to a healthy baseline.

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Stress Management May Reduce Health Problems Linked To Stress Which Include Cognitive Problems And A Higher Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia

It’s not uncommon to feel disorganized and forgetful when you’re under a lot of stress. But over the long term, stress may actually change your brain in ways that affect your memory.

Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions, says Dr. Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Scientists have seen changes in how the brain processes information when people experience either real-life stress or stress manufactured in a research setting. Either type of stress seems to interfere with cognition, attention, and memory, he says.

Stress affects not only memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety, but also promotes inflammation, which adversely affects heart health, says Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Harvard Medical School. Thus, stress has been associated with multiple chronic diseases of the brain and heart. In addition, it can affect men and women differently, she says.

Stress Damages The Gut

The brain is connected to the gut through the vagus nerve and they have a bi-directional influence on each other. Neurotransmitters are formed in both the brain and the gut and you need both working properly in order to have healthy neurotransmitter activity. Stress reduces good bacteria in the gut which is needed to produce neurotransmitters. Ninety five percent of the brains serotonin is manufactured in the gut and it is an important neurotransmitter related to memory and mood.

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Neural Circuits In Ptsd

In summary, dysfunction of a circuit involving the medial prefrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and possibly hippocampus and amygdala during exposure to traumatic reminders may underlie symptoms of PTSD. These studies have primarily assessed neural correlates of traumatic remembrance, while little has been done in the way of utilizing cognitive tasks as probes of specific regions, such as memory tasks as probes of hippocampal function.

Can Chronic Stress Affect Your Brain

5 Ways Stress Affects Your Brain

Feeling stressed out is an understandable response in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Corona gave us a double punch of stress by the initial shock of the pandemic and then just as we were adjusting to that, disrupting every aspect of normal life, says David A. Merrill, MD, PhD, psychiatrist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center, director of the Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California, and professor emeritus of psychiatry at UC Berkley.

The human brain wasnt made to handle prolonged stress, like the kind many of us are suffering from during the coronavirus quarantine, he explains. Its quite good at handling short-term stressful events but chronic high levels of stress can lead to many psychological and physical problems in your brain.

Stress hurts your brain in two ways, he says. First, it targets two areas of the brain needed for daily life, the hippocampus and frontal lobe. Then, chronic stress can affect the vascular system that feeds the brain. This is why its more important than ever to make sure youre taking care of your brain health, he says. Heres what stress does to your brain and how to help ameliorate it.

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Definition Of Allostasis And Allostatic Load

In a changing social and physical environment, the brain and body respond physiologically and behaviorally in order to adapt. Physiologically, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, hypothalamicpituitaryadrenal axis, immune system and metabolic hormones and molecular processes within all organs, including the brain, operate non-linearly and promote adaptation via allostasis . But the same mediators have biphasic effects and can also promote pathophysiology when overused or when their activity is out of balance with each other . Adaptation and protection via allostasis and wear-and-tear on the body and brain via allostatic load/overload are the two contrasting sides of the physiology involved in responses of the individual during the challenges of daily life.

Supporting Children After Stressful Traumatic Events

Various approaches, from cognitive behavioral therapy to mindfulness exercises, can help address trauma and shift the brain away from survival mode, even for children with ADHD.

Parents and other caring, trustworthy adults in a childs life also play a major role in shaping a childs response to trauma and buffering its effects.10

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Stress Changes Brain Structures

Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the developing brain in children. Yes, that’s right, stress affects how the brain architecture develops in children. Early childhood is a critical developmental period in so many ways and adverse childhood experiences can have a lifelong impact on a child’s physical and mental health. Sustained levels of stress hormones, cortisol or corticotropin-releasing hormone , can lead to impairments in learning, memory, and the ability to regulate certain behavioral responses. These changes impact specific brain structures such as the hippocampus, amygdala, white matter, as well as the neural networks .

Dealing With Stress And A Brain Injury

PTSD and the Brain

Stress after a brain injury can be even more challenging because your brain is now constantly under stress. Essentially, additional stress after a concussion is like adding insult to injury.

Stress can trigger post-concussion symptoms, especially if you arent managing your stress levels. Stress can make things like being overwhelmed, processing information, remembering things, and other symptoms worse. It is also an indicator that changes are needed to take better care of yourself and your brain, particularly because stress only adds to your symptoms.

Cognitive FX understands the stress your brain is experiencing. We can help alleviate that stress and provide you with a treatment plan to address and improve the stress on your brain. We want you to know that after injury things can get better and that your quality of life can improve. If you or someone you love is injured, we can help.

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Why Do We Have A Stress Response

Now that we understand how the brain and body respond to stress, we need to know why this response is important. During short-term, in-the-moment situations, the stress response is there to help us cope with any threat we are currently facing. The stress response works very quickly to spread the stress signal throughout the body so that we can react to it. The amazing speed at which the stress signal travels is the reason why some people can jump out of the way of a speeding car before they realize what is happening1!

The stress response is what allows us to cope with stressors that are experienced over a short period of time, like minutes to hours. These so-called acute stressors function to activate the body to prepare for future challenges . Facing and coping with mild to moderate stressors actually helps us develop coping skills, so that we can better face stressors in the future ! Short-term, mild stressful events can be considered good stress, especially if we use positive coping strategies to combat the stressor, such as talking to a friend on the phone after a hard day at school.

Save Your Brain Simple Ways To De

While stress is bound to happen at some point during your life, there are many ways to help alleviate it, including:

  • Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Drinking enough water
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Getting proper sleep

Although it may not be the biggest organ in our body, the brain is certainly the most important. It plays the center role in our daily thoughts and activities. Preserving it is crucial to living a happy and fulfilling life.

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Were Wired For Stress

The good news is that stress is completely natural and expected, and our bodies and brains have evolved accordingly to deal with threats.

For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, stress might have meant an immediate threat to ones survival happening upon a wild animal or stepping on a poisonous snake, for example causing the brain to kick the body into high gear to meet that threat.

Upon encountering a stressor, this ancient humans brain would have immediately engaged the adrenal and autonomic nervous systems, which release adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which quickly floods the body and prepares it to do what it needs to do to survive.

Specifically, heres how the brain and body respond:

You may have heard this referred to as the fight or flight response. It means that were highly adapted to deal with acute stress because stress management is literally wired into our DNA. Ostensibly, thats a very good thingafter all, here we all are, so it seems it worked out for our ancestors fairly well.

So whats the problem?

While our brains havent really changed much in the last 40-50 thousand years , our lifestyles have changed drastically. Threats from wild animals have become threats of deadlines, traffic, bills, family conflict, and more. These modern stresses arent actually going to eat you alive but your brain doesnt understand that.

What Is The Biology Behind Stress

What Stress Is Doing to Your Brain

Stress is a biological response to things that happen to you. If you perceive a situation as stressful, the hypothalamus region of your brain begins the stress response. It starts by sending a message to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then sends a message to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are found on top of your kidneys. These glands then release the stress hormone cortisol.

During the stress response, your breathing and heart rate increase and your blood pressure goes up. With the help of cortisol, your liver will break down molecules and release more sugar into the blood. An increase in blood sugar level provides more energy for the body. This is critical for the fight or flight response. The increase in energy helps you to escape from or deal with a stressful situation. It also helps the body to return to a normal state afterward.

Did you know?

During the stress response, some of your other body systems are less active. This includes your immune system and your digestive system. This is why you dont feel hungry during a stressful situation.

It is possible for people to adapt to moderate levels of stress over time. If you experience a stressful event over and over, the prefrontal cortex, or the command centre of the brain, recognizes the stressor and tells your hypothalamus that stress response is meant to be short-lived. Experiencing repeated or long-term stress means that cortisol levels in the body stay high.

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