Effects of Stress on the Brain

So you know that stress has negative effects on your body, right? But did you also know that the effects of stress on the brain can be equally as damaging?

Your Amazing Brain

facts on the human brain

The human brain is an incredibly complex terrain of folds and valleys.

  • 72-82 % of this delicate world is water and 10-12 % is fat.

  • The brain weights about 2 % of the total body weight.

  • The brain feels no pain.

  • Your brain consists of about 100 billion of neurons (the cells that make up your brain).

  • These neurons can connect with one another in 100 trillion different ways.

  • Each of these connections can link up at 10 different levels - there are 1,000 trillion possibilities - endless possibilities of connection.

  • The brain uses about 20 % of the total oxygen circulating through your body.

  • Stress affects the brain - mild stress helps memory, while intense and chronic stress hurts it.

Yes, stress can kill the brain. Researchers found that at high levels, the hormones released during stress response, cortisol, and in particular glucocorticoids, kill brain cells in experimental animals. Researchers believe that the same happens in humans.

Prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids also seems to reduce the brain's ability to create new connections to new brain cells and re-route connections to other brain cells. This problem is mostly seen in the area of hippocampus - part of brain that controls memory.

Brain scans of people who have suffered long term stress - children who have been abused, and Vietnam veterans with post traumatic stress disorder - show that their hippocampus has shrunk.

Their ability to plan, concentrate, learn quickly, think ahead and act decisively has been compromised as a result of long term flood of stress hormones into the body and brain.

On the other hand, British researchers found that while chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol damaged hippocampus, the right amount of this hormone could actually enhance learning and memory. That is one of the positive effects of stress.

That is, the right amount of stress - also called "eustress" - is good for your brain.

So, what does all this mean? Balance. That's the key step towards your brain health.

When stress is running your life, reducing your stress levels in any way you can and practicing relaxation techniques is an essential part of protecting your brain and your ability to learn and recall information.

Then again, if you are bored, your brain will thank you when you find a challenging and stimulating activity.

Related Articles:

Effects of Stress
Effects of Stress on Health
Long Term Effects of Stress
Physiological Effects of Stress
Psychological Effects of Stress
Physical Effects of Stress


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