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How Stress Affects Memory - The Quality Of Life
How Stress Affects Memory - The Quality Of Life

Video: How Stress Affects Memory - The Quality Of Life

Video: How Stress Affects Memory - The Quality Of Life
Video: Does stress affect your memory? - Elizabeth Cox 2023, June

The relationship between stress and memory is complex. A little stress can improve your ability to encode, store, and find information. Too much stress, however, can turn off this ability

How does stress affect memory?

You may have had this experience while preparing for a test or exam. A little worry can motivate and help you perform better. On the other hand, intense anxiety, especially during the test, can prevent you from remembering what you know.

Over time, trauma or chronic stress can change the brain structures involved in memory. To understand how this happens, we must consider one of the ways to form and recall memories.

When we gain some experience with our senses, the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions, activates the hippocampus to encode and store information. Emotionally charged events - both positive and negative - form the most vivid memories. Later, when the time comes to remember something, the prefrontal cortex comes into play. These same brain structures are involved in traumatic stress.

Chronic stress and memory

Whenever we are threatened, the amygdala gives off an alarm that puts the body in a fight-or-flight mode. A high dose of stress hormones is delivered to the brain and body. Studies show that high levels of these hormones over long periods of time can damage the hippocampus. It actually dries up. Which weakens his ability to encode and form memories.

In addition, during stress, the amygdala suppresses the activity of the prefrontal cortex. Biologically, this is beneficial for keeping us alive. Instead of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for giving us high thoughts and reasoning, energy and resources are being redirected into the systems necessary to maintain our physical safety. For example, our sensory perception is sharpened. Muscles receive oxygen and glucose so we can fight or run.

Most of us do not need to fight or flee to keep alive in modern society. This type of response is not helpful in job interviews or on dates. A chronically activated nervous system actually reduces our ability to function and, over time, damages certain structures in our brain.

Trauma and hippocampus

To study the effects of trauma on the hippocampus, scientists examined the brains of miners who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an industrial explosion. The researchers found that victims with PTSD had significantly reduced amygdala and hippocampus volume compared to non-injured miners.

These findings are important when it comes to memory. The shrinkage of the hippocampus and amygdala due to chronic stress reduces the ability to form and evoke memories.

What we can do

The brain retains its ability to change throughout life. Research has shown that the devastating effects of chronic stress and trauma on the hippocampus can be reversed. For example, antidepressants that increase serotonin levels repair damage to the hippocampus caused by stress. When antidepressants are used, the volume of the hippocampus in the chronically stressed brain increases.

So far, the mechanism of the restoration of brain regions is not fully understood, but it can be assumed that, in addition to increasing serotonin in reversing damage to the hippocampus, a decrease in stress, which caused undesirable changes in the first place, also plays a role.

Take the steps necessary to reduce chronic stress. This will not only have a positive effect on the overall quality of your life, but will also start the process of repairing damaged brain structures involved in memory. Exercise, therapy and medication are options that can help reverse the negative effects of trauma and chronic stress.

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