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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!

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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.

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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