As many of us have experienced, chronic stress can take a toll on your emotions and ability to think clearly. Now findings published in Neuron offer new insights into how chronic stress may affect the brain during adolescence and adulthood.
In the study (subscription required), University of Buffalo researchers analyzed whether repeated stress negatively influenced glutamate receptors in juvenile rats. Glutamate signaling plays an important role in prefrontal cortex (PFC) function. According to the university release:
[The] study involved male rats at an age corresponding to human adolescence--a period when the brain is highly sensitive to stress.
When the rats were exposed to repeated stress, they lost glutamate receptor expression and function in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain that controls working memory, decision-making and attention and doesn't fully mature until age 25.
This loss significantly impaired the adolescent rats' ability to remember and recognize objects they had previously seen. Similarly stressed adult rats, however, did not experience the same cognitive deficit.
[R]esearchers also report that by disrupting the enzymes that trigger loss of glutamate receptor expression they were able to prevent the cognitive impairment induced by repeated stress. As a result, they have discovered that there may be a way to prevent chronic stress' detrimental effects.
Previously: Stanford's Robert Sapolsky talks stress and the brain, Study suggests anticipation of stress may accelerate cellular aging, Workplace stress and how it influences health, How work stress affects wellness, health-care costs, Robert Sapolsky discusses stress physiology, Can stress increase risk of neurodegenerative diseases? and No surprise here: Anger and stress are bad for your health
Photo by Michael Clesle