How Does Stress Affect Our Brains?

How Does Stress Affect Our Brains?

Do you feel sleepless, crazy or lonely? Don’t be sad. You may just be too stressed.

But how does “stress” come from?

Stress may not be a bad thing as moderate stress can make us perform better. Because when we face an “emergency”, the tissues near the brain and kidney will be activated to release a hormone called “cortisol”, which helps us stimulate more energy and focus our attention so that we can survive the “danger”. This hormone-releasing system is called the “HPA axis”.

However, long-term chronic stress is not so good. If problems are not resolved for a long time, we will feel constant pressure. Since the brain continues to regard it as an “emergency”, the HPA axis continues to be in an “active” state with a high cortisol level. It absolutely does no good to the body.

In general, the effects of cortisol on the brain include the following 3 aspects:

Brain function

Chronic stress will reduce the connections between nerve cells in a region of the brain called the “amygdala”, which is our “emotional center”. Chronic stress brings us the feeling of “numbness” and “emotional confusion” in this way. Chronic stress can also degrade a function of the brain called the hippocampus, which is the brain’s center responsible for learning functions, memory and stress control. This is why we feel that we are “dumb”, “the memory is getting worse”, and “increasingly angry”.

The normal hippocampus can make the HPA axis that “creates pressure” less active, but as soon as it degenerates, the HPA axis is less inhibited and people are more likely to be controlled by pressure.

Brain structure

Excessive amounts of cortisol will reduce the connections between nerve cells in the whole brain, which may cause various functions to perform in a mess. Under chronic stress, the brain structure that shrinks more obviously may be the “prefrontal area”, the headquarters of the brain. It is responsible for concentration, decision-making, thinking, and communicating. The atrophy of it means the degradation of functions.

Under the influence of cortisol, its structure will also appear abnormal. The main change is the decreasing number of neurons. And this change has a lot to do with the development of many mental and neurological diseases, such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease.

Gene expression

Some researchers have experimented with mice and found that “stress” can be “herited” for several generations. You may be surprised: Can”stress” be written in genes and passed on to future generations?

This “inheritance” is not passed from parents to offspring through chromosomes as we know, but through gene expressions, that is, the “genetic material” such as chromosomes has not changed, what has changed is the expression of genetic material.

Biologists call this “epigenetic.” This inheritance is obviously affected by the environment. In nature, there are many examples of epigenetics. There is a book called “The Most Beautiful Infinite Form”, which talks about epigenetics in the biological world.

If you feel that you have the above performances, you can do at least two things to revive your brain :

See a psychiatrist and receive medication if necessary;

Keep exercising and fitness.

In this way, you let the body better control stress. In short, before the pressure completely coerces us, we can do a lot of effort to control it and make it “useful and harmless.”

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