Stress is very common among everyone these days, sometimes you begin to really notice that you’re stressed and sometimes you just have no idea! This way of thinking can be damaging to your body and the stress can affect you brain more than you think. Many people often ask if stress can be good for you in any way? Does it kill brain cells and can it cause depression? How does your brain perceive a terrifying situation and prepare your body for survival? The questions really are endless! But that’s what this article is for, to help you find out what really you could be doing to your brain from being stressed out too much.
Stress, in this circumstance, is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. There are many different reason as to why one might be going through a stressful time, from physical (i.e. fear of something dangerous) to emotional (i.e. worry over your family or job). Identifying the cause of your stress really is the first step in learning now to better deal with your stress. However, we really want to get into how stress can affect your brain and that is what this article is all about.
How Does Stress Affect Your Brain?
Neurologists have come to discover how chronic stress and cortisol can damage the brain. Studies have reconfirmed the importance of maintaining healthy brain structure and connectivity by reducing chronic stress. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found chronic stress can affect your brain structure and function. These findings have also lead them to believe that chronic stress in younger people can lead to anxiety and mood disorders later in life.
Stress can trigger changes in brain structure, including differences in volume of gray matter and white matter, even the size and connectivity of the amygdala. The grey matter of your brain is densely packed with nerve cell bodies and is responsible for the brain’s higher functions. White matter on the other hand is comprised of axons, which create a network of fibers that interconnect neurons and creates a communications network between brain regions.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is believed to create a domino effect that hard-wires pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala. Chronic stress has the ability to flip a switch in stem cells that turns them into a type of cell that inhibits connections to the prefrontal cortex. This area improves learning and memory, but lays down durable scaffolding linked to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers have found that chronic stress made stem cells in the hippocampus mature into another type of glial cell called an oligodendrocyte, which produces the myelin that sheaths nerve cells. The findings suggest key roles in long-term and perhaps permanent changes in the brain that could set the stage for later mental problems. Chronic stress decreases the number of stem cells that mature into neurons and might provide an explanation for how chronic stress affects learning abilities.