Scientists Discover New Links Between Stress and The Brain


Researchers at the Society for Neuroscience have been studying the relationship between stress and problems in the brain such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At a meeting in New Orleans, these scientists presented studies which show how stress caused by almost anything can alter how the brain functions and have long term effects on mental health.

Scientists say that these new insights into how stress affects the brain could aid in finding new treatments for these mental health issues which may prove more successful than current ones. Dipesh Chaudhury of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said, “That’s the Holy Grail and we’re moving in that direction.”

Chaudhury says that traumatic events inhibit the brain’s reward system which ends up causing depression. Mice appear to have a similar response and after extensive research, Chaudbury shows that, at least in mice, this response can be prevented by reducing the activity of the brain cells involved in the reward system.

Another researcher, Amy Arnsten, a neurobiologist at Yale, says that stress affects mental health in another way. The brain releases chemicals which in turn impair the function of the prefrontal cortex which can lead to anxiety and PTSD.

There are some drugs out there which can counteract the effects. There is Prazosin, a blood pressure drug which has been used to treat PTSD sufferers. Ketamine has also proven useful in treating PTSD, as it causes the formation of new nerve connections in the brain and helps people avoid developing PTSD.

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