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Six tips to build resilience and prevent brain-damaging stress

These days, we all live under con­sid­er­able stress — eco­nom­ic chal­lenges, job demands, fam­i­ly ten­sions, always-on tech­nol­o­gy and the 24-hour news cycle all con­tribute to cease­less wor­ry. While many have learned to sim­ply “live with it,” this ongo­ing stress can, unless prop­er­ly man­aged, have a Read the rest of this entry »

The Neurobiology of Stress: The Stress Response Explained

(Editor’s note: below you have part 4 of the 6-part The Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of Stress series. If you are join­ing the series now, you can read the pre­vi­ous part Here.)

Stayin’  Alive

Under­stand­ing the Human Brain and How It Responds to Stress

THE STRESS RESPONSE EXPLAINED

Stress was put on the map, so to speak, by a Hun­gar­i­an — born Cana­di­an endocri­nol­o­gist named Hans Hugo Bruno Selye (ZEL — yeh) in 1950, when he pre­sent­ed his research on rats at the annu­al con­ven­tion of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. To explain the impact of stress, Selye pro­posed some­thing he called the Gen­er­al Adap­ta­tion Syn­drome (GAS), which he said had three com­po­nents. Accord­ing to Selye, when an organ­ism expe­ri­ences some nov­el or threat­en­ing stim­u­lus it responds with an alarm reac­tion. This is fol­lowed by what Selye referred to as the recov­ery or resis­tance stage, a peri­od of time dur­ing which the brain repairs itself and stores the ener­gy it will need to deal with the next stress­ful event.

Read the rest of this entry »

Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?

A fewA_small_cup_of_coffee eter­nal ques­tions:
— Is caf­feine good for the brain?
— Does it boost cog­ni­tive func­tions?
— Does it pro­tect against demen­tia?

There is lit­tle doubt that drink­ing that morn­ing cup of cof­fee will like­ly increase alert­ness, but the main ques­tions that research is try­ing to answer go beyond that. Basi­cal­ly: is there a sus­tained, life­time, ben­e­fit or harm from drink­ing cof­fee reg­u­lar­ly?

The answer, so far, con­tains good news and bad news. The good news for cof­fee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are direc­tion­al­ly more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caf­feine has ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­er­al brain func­tions, either short-term or long-term (aged-relat­ed decline or risks of demen­tia).

It is impor­tant to note that many of the stud­ies show­ing an effect of cof­fee con­sump­tion on brain func­tions or risks of demen­tia report a cor­re­la­tion or asso­ci­a­tion (they are not ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als). As you know, cor­re­la­tion doesn’t prove cau­sa­tion: cof­fee drinkers may seem to do well in a num­ber in these long-term stud­ies, but there may be oth­er rea­sons why cof­fee drinkers do bet­ter.

Q: How does caf­feine affect my brain?
A: Caf­feine is a stim­u­lant.

It belongs to a chem­i­cal group called xan­thine. Adeno­sine is a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring xan­thine in the brain that slows down the activ­i­ty of brain cells (neu­rons). To a neu­ron, caf­feine looks like adeno­sine. It is there­fore used by some neu­rons in place of adeno­sine. The result is that these neu­rons speed up instead of slow­ing down.

This increased neu­ronal activ­i­ty trig­gers the release of the adren­a­line hor­mone, which will affect your body Read the rest of this entry »

Stress and Neural Wreckage: Part of the Brain Plasticity Puzzle

Victoria Crater MarsEditor’s Note: Below you have a very insight­ful arti­cle on stress by Gre­go­ry Kel­let, a researcher at UCSF. Enjoy!

———————————————-

My brain is fried, toast, fraz­zled, burnt out. How many times have you said or heard one ver­sion or anoth­er of these state­ments. Most of us think we are being fig­u­ra­tive when we utter such phras­es, but research shows that the bio­log­i­cal con­se­quences of sus­tained high lev­els of stress may have us being more accu­rate than we would like to think.

Crash Course on Stress

Our bod­ies are a com­plex bal­anc­ing act between sys­tems work­ing full time to keep us alive and well. This bal­anc­ing act is con­stant­ly adapt­ing to the myr­i­ad of changes occur­ring every sec­ond with­in our­selves and our envi­ron­ments. When it gets dark our pupils dilate, when we get hot we sweat, when we smell food we sali­vate, and so forth. This con­stant bal­anc­ing act main­tains a range of sta­bil­i­ty in the body via change; and is often referred to as allosta­sis. Any change which threat­ens this bal­ance can be referred to as allo­sta­t­ic load or stress.

Allo­sta­t­ic load/stress is part of being alive. For exam­ple just by get­ting up in the morn­ing, we all expe­ri­ence a very impor­tant need to increase our heart rate and blood pres­sure in order to feed our new­ly ele­vat­ed brain. Although usu­al­ly man­age­able, this is a change which the body needs to adapt to and, by our def­i­n­i­tion, a stres­sor.

Stress is only a prob­lem when this allo­sta­t­ic load becomes over­load. When change is exces­sive or Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Essay Contest for High School Students

We are very excit­ed to announce sub­mis­sions are open for our Brain Essay Con­test held in con­junc­tion with four oth­er blogs. The hosts are:

The goal of this con­test is to con­nect high-school stu­dents and teach­ers of biol­o­gy and psy­chol­o­gy with sci­ence and psy­chol­o­gy blog­gers. Stu­dents will need to answer in 400–800 words:

Based on brain and mind research (with­in the past 5 years),

  1. How do we learn?
  2. How can this new knowl­edge improve edu­ca­tion and the lives of all peo­ple?”

Sub­mis­sions are due by May 10, 2007.

The ten best essays, as select­ed by the jury of the host blogs, will be post­ed on the host blogs and entered into blog car­ni­vals. The win­ners will gain recog­ni­tion in the blo­go­phere and get a com­pli­men­ta­ry annu­al sub­scrip­tion to Tuition­Coach, a per­son­al­ized, inter­net-based pro­gram that de-mys­ti­fies the col­lege finan­cial aid process for stu­dents and their fam­i­lies and helps fam­i­lies find the best options to finance col­lege choic­es.

Are you a high school stu­dent? Do you know a high school stu­dent? If so, get those key­boards warmed up and send us your best!

Here you have some use­ful advice from a fel­low blog­ger.

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

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