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Dr. Gary Small, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry and aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Small, one the nations top brain health experts, frequently appears on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The Dr. Oz Show. He is co-author with his wife Gigi Vorgan of many popular books, including The New York Times best-seller, The Memory Bible, and The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. He is author of The Mind Health Report newsletter.

Let's face it — without a decent mind, you have no quality of life. With Dr. Gary Small's Mind Health Report, you'll gain greater health, happiness, and fulfillment in your relationships, personal life, work life or retirement, and more. Dr. Small fills every issue with the latest advancements in brain research from the far-reaching frontiers of neuroscience and psychiatry. You'll not only read about breakthrough techniques for rejuvenating your brain health, but also see actual case studies from Dr. Small, one of the nation's leading brain and aging experts and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.

Each month, you'll embark on a new journey into the world of your brain. You'll discover the latest on topics such as Alzheimer's disease and memory loss, anxiety and depression, diet advice for a healthy brain, natural supplements and drugs that aid mental functioning and lessen pain and fatigue, and much more.

Tags: Anxiety | stress | hormones | cortisol | memory

Stress Leads to Information Overload

By Dr. Small   |   Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 12:07 PM

Many of my patients are unaware of just how much stress affects their lives. One of the first important steps in dealing more effectively with stress is to get a sense of the symptoms it leads to.
 
Recent studies from the University of Wisconsin indicate that stress can even shift the natural balance of attention in our brains so that we have more difficulty thinking clearly and solving complex problems.
 
When our brains are in stress-alert mode, we instinctively process a lot of irrelevant information and scan the environment to detect immediate threats. The process can lead to information overload, and we have more trouble paying attention to the solutions to our dilemmas.
 
During acute stress, electrical activity in the brain declines in the frontal lobe (the thinking brain) and heightens in the amygdala, an area beneath the temples that controls a range of emotions. The amygdala essentially takes over under stress, and we have more difficulty finding reasonable answers to our problems. That’s why it’s not a good idea to make important decisions during a stressful life situation.
 
Studies also show that after several days of injections with the stress hormone cortisol, human volunteers have trouble learning and recalling new information. Many can’t even remember what they just read.
 
The good news is that these kinds of stress-induced memory difficulties go away when cortisol levels decrease. In some situations, emotional stimulation can actually increase memory abilities. This so-called emotional memory can kick in during positive as well as negative experiences.
 

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