"So why is it that zebras don't get ulcers?" Michael Krasny, host of KQED's Forum, asked his guest during this morning's second hour of programming. The guest was Stanford's Robert Sapolsky, PhD, who is the author of, among other books, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. (And Sapolsky's answer was, essentially, that zebras aren't smart enough.) Sapolsky has been combining field work on primates with neurological research in the laboratory for more than 30 years, and he discussed with Krasny his latest research on stress and the brain.
Sapolsky explained how baboons and chimps, who are markedly more intelligent than some other animals and can provide insights into our own behavior, have the "ecological luxury" of generating psychological stress. While a zebra can experience a short-term, physical crisis - escape death by lion attack, for example - and then go on about his day unperturbed, this isn't the case for baboons, chimps, or us. Certain social, long-lived primates can anticipate trouble and even think themselves into being sick.
Sapolsky also described how we (humans) can use psychological stress to our advantage; for example, increasing productivity by working against deadlines could be advantageous.
Better post this soon.