CogniFit's Science blog: Chronic Stress Can Affect Brain Plasticity

Chronic Stress Can Affect Brain Plasticity

Stress can have all sorts of negative effects on your body. A new study shows that stress can especially have an effect on your brain plasticity and cognitive function. The University of California’s researchers published the study in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The basic premise of the study is that stress causes the accumulation of insoluble tau protein on the brain cells. This study was done on mice at the San Diego School of Medicine. The proteins that gather on the brain when you are stressed are similar to that of proteins on the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

This study has backed up the many studies that claim the more stressful a person’s life is the more likely they are to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This study explains more of the why that happens. Science knew there was a link but they didn’t really know why until now.

Researchers found that not all forms of stress are equally harmful to brain plasticity and brain function. Passing stress such as a single stressful incident does not seem to leave long term damage. The damage comes into play with acute stress that the person is experiencing for long periods of time.

Short bursts of stress that are easily managed can actually be good for your brain plasticity and your ability to learn. As people age the ability to rebound from simple stress becomes less so while short bursts of stress can be healthy for younger people they do not help older people.

Brain plasticity is important because it is what determines how efficiently your brain works. The more connections your brain makes the easier it is for you to process information and make decisions. During your lifetime your brain plasticity can increase and decline depending on your lifestyle.

The researchers observed that two key coricotropin receptors were impacting which suggest a target for potential therapies. There are already some drugs currently in trial that modulate the activity of these receptors which may also be a potential treatment one day. Researchers recognize there is no way to completely eliminate stress but treatments may reduce the effects of stress on brain plasticity.