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