Stress Hurts Your Brain

At work, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about addictions, trauma, violence, and mental health. And to be honest, it can be a really downer reading things like “Most violence against adult women is perpetrated by intimate partners” and “…past victimization increased the risk of a new rape incidence by a factor of seven and increased the risk of a new physical assault incidence by a factor of three,” and “…women who reported being raped in the preceding 12 month months averaged 2.9 rapes in the preceding 12 months…”1,2 all day long.

But the following sentence in a paper about the effects of stress on the brain that I was reading today made me smile:

Along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinepherine, glucocorticoids are essential for surviving acute physical stress (evading a predator, for example) but they may cause adverse effects when secretion is sustained such as when waiting to hear about a grant renewal.2, 3

Also making me smile in this paper were the use of the words: hippocampi (the plural of “hippocampus,” the structure in the brain that is involved in learning and memory) and Cushingoid (to describe people with Cushing’s syndrome, a disease in which individuals produce excessive amounts of glucocorticoids (a hormone we produce in response to stress).

Say them with me: Hippocampi.  Cushingoid.  Fun to say, right?

Oh yeah, and the moral of the story is stress hurts your brain.  So chill out already. =)
1All three of these quotations are from: Najavits, L., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. American Journal on Addictions, 6(4), 273-283.
2Emphasis added
3Sapolsky, R.M. (1996). Why stress is bad for your brain. Science, 273, 749-750.

Comments |5|

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  • For more reading..I’m just finishing up LeDoux’s “Synaptic Self”. I just read 40 pages of bio blah, blah, blah that basically had the same net result: stress hurts your brain. Physically. Let me know if you want to borrow it (You’ll understand more of it than I do.) PS (no, no footnote), I spent 1 extra minute proofing this note cause on your blog the posting about National Grammar Day received 7 comments! What’s your demographic here chick?


  • Cool! I’d totally love to borrow that at some point… well, at some point when I’m not working 3 jobs!

    That is pretty funny that my National Grammar Day post got so many comments. I guess my demographic is “grammar nerd.” I am friends with Grammar Girl on Facebook *and* Twitter, you know.


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  • Did I ever tell you that they thought I had Cushing’s during my first year of my Master’s. It was messed up. And involved like 5 24-hour urine collections and many visits to an endocrinologist. Happily, I didn’t have it (nor did I end up with the best symptom, moonface)!


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