Researchers at Umea University in Sweden have published their findings that stress causes an influx of steroids into the brain that can suppress cognitive ability and can increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease in which brain cells die causing memory problems, decision making difficulties and trouble performing everyday tasks.
When an individual is stressed whether it is psychological or physical, the body goes through a series of chemical and biological changes in order to prepare itself to deal with the threat. One of those chances is an increased level of a steroid called allopregnanolone.
The researchers examined the direct impact of this increase in two difference mice models.
First the researchers examined mice that have been genetically modified to be born with Alzheimer’s disease. These mice responded to allopregnanolone with impaired learning and memory problems. In addition, there was a distinct increase in the levels of beta-amyloids in the brain, these area type of protein that forms an insoluble plaque in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Additionally, the researchers found that high levels of allopregnanolone in otherwise healthy mice saw marked increased in levels of beta-amyloids which resulted in dysfunctional synapses in the brain.
It was concluded that these changes in neuronal biology occurred prior to the symptoms of memory impairment meaning that the terminal effects of stress is damaging the brain and the effects of which will only be seen after the event.
This research highlights the fundamental need to control stress levels in order to inhibit its harmful effect on the brain.