Saturday, May 6

How stress affects your brain

A lot of us suffer from stress, but despite the fact that those who aren't dealing with it may at times have the impression that stress is an abstract idea, the consequences of it can actually be extremely severe.

The effects that stress can have on a person's body are enormous and can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways, including the grinding of teeth, a weakened immune system, a faster heartbeat, and other symptoms. These symptoms can appear and disappear at any time; however, researchers have recently investigated the physiological effects of stress on the human brain, and the findings are fairly disturbing.

In a recent study that was carried out by academics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and published in the journal Neurology this month, the researchers came to the conclusion that not only does stress cause a deterioration in memory, but it can also cause the brain to physically shrink.

The study examined more than 2,000 healthy, middle-aged people and discovered that those with high blood levels of cortisol, a hormone generated in response to stress, performed worse on memory tests. Further investigation showed that those with high cortisol levels also had smaller brain volumes than the norm, which suggested that the size of the grey matter had actually shrunk.

The 'fight or flight' body response is most likely the cause of how stress has been demonstrated to physically affect the brain. Adrenaline, which gives the body the energy to flee or fight itself in a threatening circumstance, is also released together with cortisol. These hormones are released into the body, temporarily suppressing non-essential biological processes like digestion, reproduction, and growth.

However, when the body experiences ongoing stress, cortisol levels will stay high and brain function will be below average for a prolonged period of time.

This study serves as a reminder of the need to minimize stress in life if at all possible, even though it only provides a snapshot of the effects of stress on individuals at one particular time. You'll be grateful to your brain for it.


  1. Stress is an important, and often under-rated concern. Sadly, the people who have the most stress are often those with the least power to change it - abusive relationships, the homeless and mentally ill, those with toxic jobs who are economically constrained. Important post!

  2. Thanks for the article, its really very useful.

  3. This post is so very important, Melody! Thanks so much for putting this together, I absolutely agree that trying to minimize stress as much as possible is crucial. It can be so difficult, but it can have some horrible, long-term effects if we don't try to get our stress under control.

    Make Life Marvelous


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