long as there is breath in my body
I will never ever cease to be a seeker after truth."
Holliday Stress and
It's as much a part of the holidays as presents
and food. We're talking about stress. As this ScienCentral
News video explains, scientists are finding more about how
it affects our brains, from memory to the ability to make
You're running late, stuck in traffic, or pushing a deadline.
The day seems a bit more out of control than usual and,
bam, you've driven past your freeway exit. Whether it's
something like this, or drawing a blank during a big meeting,
or getting into a fender-bender on the way to a parent-teacher
conference, we all have had moments where life's little
pressures ganged up on us and we, somehow, made the problem
worse by forgetting something or overlooking a significant
Scientists have known that stress can impact your memory.
What they're beginning to understand now is the changes
your brain undergoes because of stress.
Jeansok Kim an associate professor at the University of
Washington's psychology department, studies memory by using
mice. He's found a way to measure activity inside the brain's
hippocampus. He says, "Think of it as putting a miniature
microphone into the hippocampus and as the animal is navigating,
you are listening to the cells."
What he's hearing is the cells firing as a mouse moves from one location
to another. When a mouse is a new location, various cells in the hippocampus
fire, creating a memory of that spot. When the mouse returns to that
location, the same cells fire.
Scientists often test how well a mouse thinks by putting
them in a pool of water. Mice are good but reluctant swimmers
and soon locate a platform hidden out of sight, just beneath
the water's surface. In later tests, they could easily
remember where the platform was and quickly swim to it.
Sorry about the quality but the original
is poor :(
However, Kim played some mice a series of
sporadic brief hissing sounds that stress the mice. When
those mice were put in the water, they had trouble finding
the platform even though they had done this test before
being exposed to the hissing.
"Following stress, the cells that fired in a particular
location still fired at the same location, but tended to
fire at a different frequency," Kim says. "You're
actually looking at stress effects on ongoing brain cell
activity as the animal is behaving."
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, Kim also reported finding that stress affected
the brain cell connections, or synapses, that connect with
other cells to form memories and to learn, a concept scientists
call brain plasticity. He said there was less of a protein
called LTP, which is important in forming these connections.
"If you underwent a traumatic stress and then afterwards
the information is not processed correctly, then at a later
time when it comes time to use that information to make
some certain important decision, you may not be able to
make the proper decision that you would normally make," Kim
This research was published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences Online early edition for the
week of November 5, 2007 and was funded by the Whitehall
Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the University
Disclaimer: To comply with FDA requirements we
need to inform you the fact that a lot of people have had tremendous
results does not guarantee that you will have the same results. Also,
if you have a serious medical condition, this use of this technology
should not replace any competent medical advice you are currently receiving.
Our experiences have been that most people will use this technology
while continuing to visit their usual/normal medical professionals
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