Stressed? It may be in your genes…

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April 11th, 2010

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With finals around the corner, the stress factor on campus is bound to rise in the next few weeks. Individual students have their own way of coping with stress, such as TV, video games, music, power naps at Mugar Library (the cubbies are quite comfortable) or a marathon visit to FitRec. Regardless of the method, all aim to reduce the anxiety of coming exams.

Stress also has a neurophysiological effect that decreases rates of neuroplasticity (the ability for the brain to “rewire” itself) in the hippocampus – an area believed to be a center of learning and memory. Additionally, new research suggests that there is a genetic basis for stress effects on the brain connected to a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In a joint study conducted by Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College researchers, it was found that mice with inadequate BDNF expression had brains that looked similar to those of mice exposed to chronic stress over a long period of time. These mice were not exposed to chronic stress, yet they still showed decreased rates of neuroplasticity in the hippocampus – a characteristic of stressed brains.

It seems that stress is a product of our environment as well as our genes. At this point, research on BDNF is just beginning. However, this research might open doors to the treatment of chronic stress disorders on the genetic and physiological level without the use of controversial psychotropic drugs.

Read the full article over at Science Daily for the whole scoop.

Gene That Changes the Brain’s Response to Stress Identified

via Science Daily

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