New Stress Danger: It Can Steal Our Memories

We know that stress can harm relationships, make us ill, even make us sad or depressed.  But did you know it can also erode your memories?

A new study says that, sustained stress erodes memory, and the immune system plays a key role in the cognitive impairment, according to a new study from researchers at The Ohio State University, reports.

 “This is chronic stress. It’s not just the stress of giving a talk or meeting someone new,” says lead researcher Jonathan Godbout, associate professor of neuroscience at Ohio State.

Mice that were repeatedly exposed to an aggressive intruder had a hard time recalling where the escape hole was in a maze they’d mastered prior to the stressful period.

 They also had measurable changes in their brains, including evidence of inflammation brought on by the immune system’s response to the outside pressure. This was associated with the presence of immune cells, called macrophages, in the brain of the stressed mice.

The research team was able to pin the short-term memory loss on the inflammation, and on the immune system, issues that were not known before.

The researchers found that the stressed mice had trouble with spatial memory that resolved within 28 days. They found that the mice displayed social avoidance, which measures depressive-like behavior, that continued after four weeks of monitoring.

When they gave the mice a chemical that inhibited inflammation, neither the brain-cell problem nor the depressive symptoms went away. But the memory loss and inflammatory macrophages did disappear. 

So what can we learn from this?  Stress, as we all know, can be a bad thing in our lives.  But it's also an inevitable one.  Exercise, meditate, take time each day for deep breaths.  These all help.  We can't get rid of stress but maybe we can tolerate it better.


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