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Yale Study: Stress Shrinks Your Brain

Tuesday, 10 Jan 2012 03:44 PM


Severe stress could be shrinking the gray matter in critical areas of your brain, leading to all kinds of emotional and physical problems even in healthy individuals, according to researchers at Yale University.

A brain imaging study found that stressful life events such as job loss or divorce, could affect critical regions of the brain that regulate emotion and physiological functions, and lead over time to serious psychiatric problems or chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.

The study, which included the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 103 healthy individuals, revealed that even the brains of participants who had only recently experienced life changing or stressful events showed reduced gray matter in a part of the prefrontal cortex that regulates emotions and self control, as well as blood pressure and glucose levels.
“The accumulation of stressful life events may make it more challenging for these individuals to deal with future stress, particularly if the next demanding event requires effortful control, emotion regulation, or integrated social processing to overcome it,” Emily Ansell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study, said in a statement posted on Yale's website.
The study, which was published Monday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, also indicates an important need to “find ways to deal with the emotional fallout,” caused by stress, according to Yale neurobiology professor Rajita Sinha, senior author of the report.
“The brain is dynamic and plastic and things can improve — but only if stress is dealt with in a healthy manner,” Sinha said. “If not, the effects of stress can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.”

© HealthDay

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