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How Stress Affects the Brain

March 1, 2013

People  can get stressed for many reasons  during their lifetime for instance a kid getting stressed because of rejection or a man having stress because financial problems with his family. Stress is defined as an organism total response to an environmental condition or stimuli, it is a negative condition that can impact an organism physical well being, and stress is the body reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. although stress is  an integral part of our lives, but researchers have found that everyday stress can lead to change in the brain that makes us more vulnerable to mental as well as social disorder ranging from depression to addiction and behavioral condition  The body reacts to these challenges with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Some of the brain related symptoms of stress include constant worrying, poor judgment, memory problems, anxious and racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, seeing only the negative amongst others among these effects is that to the brain (Sapolsky RM 1996)

Stress affects the brain in many ways, stress can kill the brain, it has been found that at high levels the hormones released during the stress response, cortisol kill brain cells. Prolonged exposure to Glucocorticoids also seems to reduce the brains ability to create new connection to other brain cells mostly seen in the area of Hippocampus part of the brain that controls memory, stress hormones divert blood glucose to exercising muscle, therefore the amount of glucose reaching the blood hypothalamus is diminished, this ultimately leads to one unable to create new memories. Stress also leads to temporally memory loss

The ability to concentrate, plan, learn quickly, think ahead and act decisively has been compromised as a result of long term floods of stress hormone into the body and brain, long term stress anxiety and depression have been linked with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact research suggests that long term stress stimulates the growth of the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s and that can lead to memory loss. Also chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment a single generic switch that trigger loss of the brain connection in human research found that generic switch known as transcription factor represses the expression of several genes that are necessary for the formation of synaptic connection between brain cells which in turn could contribute to loss of brain mass in the prefrontal cortex. , (McEwen BS 1997)

Impacts of stress on peoples brain health is affected by other behavior that can harm the brain overeating, consumption of alcohol, smoking cigarettes all these increase the risk of damage to the brain in the form of a stroke.

The effects of stress on the memory includes interference with ones capacity to encodes and ability retrieve information, when an individual encounters stress , the body reacts by Secretin stress hormones into the blood stream , over secretion of these hormone most frequently affects the brain negatively the hormone responsible for this is Glucocorticoids , this hormone facilitates and impairs the Hippocampus  by preventing one from being able to form a new memory and retrieving an existing memory . Stress affects many memory functions and cognitive functioning of the brain

A study has indicated that male humans like rats, don’t do most of their agile thinking under stress.  The study shows that a healthy person is able to come up with very good solutions when faced with problems or solving one as compared to an individual who is stressed out thus it is very clear that stress disrupts ones thinking- that stress also impairs performance on attention shifting tasks and diminish activity in the medical Prefrontal cortex

Stress can lead to a severe medical condition where it increases  the ability of chemicals to pass through the blood brain barriers, the ability of stress to pass through the blood brain barrier has enormous implications since most medicines do not enter the brain

Stress has also been seen as a cause of brain fog, this is poor mental function associated with confusion, forgetting things and difficulty in actual thinking, it is basically a feeling confusion and luck of factualness. The increase brain activity makes a person reacts faster to situations , thus with lots of pressure means greater increase in brain activity Stress overstimulated the brain thus creating a problem when it is time to cool off. With this kind of hyperactivity in the brain ones thoughts and memory impaired ultimately leading to a brain fog.

Long term Stress is also the cause of brain damage. When one has chronic stress (the response of emotional pressure injured for a long period where an in individual has no control) the brain gets a lot of an enzyme that damages the dendritic spines. Studies have shown that stress might promote brain cancer indirectly by weakening the immune system defense or by bringing on new tumor feeding blood vessel to form thus making it very easy for malignant tumors to grow and spread. Although unclear mental stress is believed to be a cause of brain tumor

Stress has a lot of impact in the development of the brain this is so because any physical or emotional sate of the mother will always directly or indirectly have effect on the unborn child, scientist have found that exposure to maternal stress can at times have harmful effects or damage on the fetus that depending on the duration and intensity of the stress, this has a negative impact on the fetus brain. An expectant mother experiencing stress which results to hormonal and immune system changes which will directly affects the fetus brain development (Gïedd & Jeffries, 1999).  Pre-ternal stress leads to the infants brain problems including;

I.          Lower scores on matters of mental development- this can be attributed to the fact that stress does impairs learning, sustained stress can damage the brain hippocampus making it difficult to learn something new, study shows that stressed person or animal has the problem of retaining what they have learned.

II.          Problem with being attentive and being focused

III.          Poor scores in school amongst others

Stress is also believed to contribute to the development of brain aneurysm this is a serious medical condition defined by bulge in a vessel in the brain caused by a weakening of the vessels wall. Ione of the prescribed ways to help avoid aneurysm is the management of the stress level

Stress is also another reason for brain degeneration; this is basically the wearing out of some parts of the brain, through a lot of exposure accelerates the wearing out of hippocampus which is part of the feedback mechanism that signals when to stop cortisol production thus compromising one memory and the aging cycle continues

Thus it is highly crucial to try and manage stress by trying to reduce, prevent and cope with it so you can avoid the risk that comes with it, a number of ways that can help is via.

  • Practicing meditation-meditation gives one a sense of calm, peace and balance that help in dealing with stressful situations, when one meditates it clears away the information overloads that builds up that leads up to stress.
  • Seeking counseling-councilors’ help one understand  what the problem is really is and how to go about it
  • Maintaining a strong social network
  • Using soft ball to relieve daily pressure.

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