Stress causes shrinking in important parts of the brain

A new study has found that living a stressful life may lead to shrinking in important parts of the brain.

Researchers at Yale University saw reductions in the amount of gray matter in parts of the brain that control physiological and emotional functioning in those who endured significant amounts of stress.

According to a press release on Yale’s website, the study observed over 100 healthy participants by conducting magnetic resonance imaging scans while they answered questions about potentially traumatic life events, including the losing of a loved one, job or home.

“They found that even the brains of subjects who had only recently experienced a stressful life event showed markedly lower gray matter in portions of the … area of the brain that regulates not only emotions and self-control, but physiological functions such as blood pressure and glucose levels,” the release stated.

Lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry, Emily Ansell, additionally noted in the release that an increase in the amount of stressful life events one endures could impact the individual’s ability to handle future stressful situations.

Fellow Yale and Foundations Fund professor Rajita Sinha, who works in the Department of Neurobiology and the Yale Child Study Center, said the study brings to light the increased importance of finding ways to help people cope with stress properly.

“The brain is dynamic and plastic and things can improve – but only if stress is dealt with in a healthy manner,” Sinha was quoted as saying. “If not, the effects of stress can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.”

The study was reportedly funded by the National Institutes of Health, and was published earlier this year in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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