New study finds stress causes brain to shrink

A new study published last week in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry found that a stressful life can actually decrease the volume of gray matter in the brain.

The research which was conducted at Yale Stress Centre, has been put forward as the first study to directly examine the effect of stress on otherwise healthy people.

103 participants completed assessments establishing both their physical and mental health, additionally in order to regard the research population as ‘normal’ the participants were pre-screened for substance abuse, head injuries and other factors that may have caused a change in brain structure and function. The participants took part in a cumulative adversity interview which examined the amount of stress present in their day-to-day life. the researchers then examined their assessments and stress levels with brain mass and function by examining magnetic resonance imaging.

It was reported that higher cumulative stress levels were associated with a reduction in brain mass particularly gray matter in the prefrontal cortex an area of the brain known to be involved in decision making, planning behaviour and activity in pursuit of achieving internal goals and ambitions additionally the prefrontal cortex has been thought to be involved with moderating behaviour to match social situation.

Mindfulness meditation techniques have been found to aid one’s ability to cope and overcome stress and anxiety levels therefore the negative affect stress has on the brain could be reduced.

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