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Stress disrupts human thinking, but the brain can bounce back
Date:1/27/2009

at stress would also impair performance on attention-shifting tasks and diminish activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.

He found that male med students who said they were stressed out one month before they were to take their boards fared much worse on attention-shifting tasks than similar healthy adults who claimed to be taking it easy. The high stress levels, gauged by an established measure called the perceived stress scale, were also tightly associated with diminished activity in the prefrontal cortex. But their performance on response-reversals was unimpaired. Finally, as was found in the rats, when Liston scanned the students again one month after the test, he discovered that their attention-shifting performance had returned to normal along with their brains.

The uncanny similarities surprised even the researchers. "I certainly don't want to say that rat brains are just like human brains," Liston says. "But it does show that you can use research in animal models to help interpret human neuroimaging results."

Liston plans to next explore how stress impacts the rest of the brain. He also wants to investigate whether or not there are differences in how the brains of men and women respond to stress. "Stress is doing a whole lot of things in your brain that we don't understand yet, but we know that it is intimately involved in a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders," Liston says. A mechanistic understanding of stress could lead to insights into associated psychiatric problems, he says.


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Contact: Brett Norman
bnorman@rockefeller.edu
212-327-7613
Rockefeller University
Source:Eurekalert

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