Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Can Chronic Stress Lead to Brain Disorders?

As a college student, we have all experienced what it feels like to be stressed. Chronic stress is when a person experiences ongoing stress which causes the body's autonomic nervous system to lack a relaxation response. The body is in a constant state of physiological arousal. Can this chronic stress lead to brain disorders in our later years? 
During a recent research done at University of California Berkley, it is found that chronic stress may lead to long-term changes in the brain. These changes include mental problems like anxiety and mood disorders.The findings may lead to new therapies to help reduce the risk of developing mental illness after stressful events. 

In a series of experiment, Dr. Daniela Kaufer and her colleagues discovered that chronic stress creates more myelin-producing cells and less neurons than in a normal non-stressed person. The excess myelin causes the changes in the balance and timing of communication within the brain. The researchers all found that chronic stress caused the stem cells in the hippocampus (which regulates memory and emotions) to mature into oligodendrocytes (a type of glial cell that produces the myelin that sheaths nerve cells). Oligodendrocytes also play the role of helping control the growth of other pathways of axon. 

Now that classes are picking up and exams are coming up soon...stress levels are probably rising as well. So remember to take a break from studying and work to rest the mind. You can do yoga, go for a run, meditate, or have some tea. Good luck with exams everyone and have a great rest of the week!

Posted by Amber Vien (3)


  1. How exactly does the excess in myelin cause these mental problems? Does it cause some disruption in the signaling between neurons that causes some sort of loss in brain functioning?

    Posted by Ashton Brown

  2. Interesting post, I liked how stress was looked at from a science standpoint. I wonder if the problems associated with stress are also a result of there being less stem cells in the hippocampus since they are in the brain region responsible for memory and emotion?

    Posted by Morgan Matuszko

  3. Now I know what happens when I become really stressed. Do you know of any therapies that could help college students lower stress? Also, what kind of brain disorders can we possibly get from stress?

    Lindsey Janof

  4. It seems unclear whether these effects are permanent or not. That chronic stress can change your brain, and give you a temporary mental "disorder" is not surprising. What would be surprising is if chronic stress could cause a permanent brain disorder.


  5. The article did not specify whether or not the chronic disorders would be temporary or permanent. The test was done on a person with PTSD. It was shown that the brain contained more white matter over gray matter in stressed people.
    There are many ways to help relief stress. At UMass last year during finals week, the school had therapy dogs on Goodell lawn. There are also other ways to release stress, like relaxing the body with acupuncture.
    Disorders you can get can be small like acute stress disorder or something more serious along the lines of PTSD.

    Amber Vien