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(Health) Stress and Alzheimer's Disease

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:32 am    Post subject: (Health) Stress and Alzheimer's Disease Reply with quote

Stress significantly hastens progression of Alzheimer's disease
University of California at Irvine

Research suggests stress hormones play a central role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s

Irvine, Calif., August 29, 2006
Stress hormones appear to rapidly exacerbate the formation of brain lesions that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at UC Irvine. The findings suggest that managing stress and reducing certain medications prescribed for the elderly could slow down the progression of this devastating disease.

In a study with genetically modified mice, Frank LaFerla, professor of neurobiology and behavior, and a team of UCI researchers found that when young animals were injected for just seven days with dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid similar to the body’s stress hormones, the levels of the protein beta-amyloid in the brain increased by 60 percent. When beta-amyloid production increases and these protein fragments aggregate, they form plaques, one of the two hallmark brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists also found that the levels of another protein, tau, also increased. Tau accumulation eventually leads to the formation of tangles, the other signature lesion of Alzheimer’s. The findings appear in this week’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

“It is remarkable that these stress hormones can have such a significant effect in such a short period of time,” LaFerla said. “Although we have known for some time that higher levels of stress hormones are seen in individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, this is the first time we have seen how these hormones play such a direct role in exacerbating the underlying pathology of the disease.”

The researchers injected four-month-old transgenic mice with levels of dexamethasone similar to the level of hormones that would be seen in humans under stress. At this young age, there would be little formation of plaques and tangles in the brains of the mice. After one week, the scientists found that the level of beta-amyloid in the brains of the animals compared to what is seen in the brains of untreated eight- to nine-month-old mice, demonstrating the profound consequence of glucocorticoid exposure. When dexamethasone was given to 13-month-old mice that already had some plaque and tangle pathology, the hormone again significantly worsened the plaque lesions in the brain and led to increased accumulation of the tau protein.

“Although we expected that this drug, which, like the stress hormone cortisol, activates glucocorticoid receptors, might have some effect on plaques and tangles, it was surprising to find that such large increases were induced in relatively young mice,” said James L. McGaugh, research professor of neurobiology and behavior and co-author of the paper.

The increased accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau appears to work in a “feedback loop” to hasten the progression of Alzheimer’s. The researchers found that the higher levels of beta-amyloid and tau led to an increase in the levels of the stress hormones, which would come back to the brain and speed up the formation of more plaques and tangles.

According to the researchers, these findings have profound implications for how to treat the elderly who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

“This study suggests that not only is stress management an important factor in treating Alzheimer’s disease, but that physicians should pay close attention to the pharmaceutical products they prescribe for their elderly patients,” said Kim Green, a postdoctoral researcher in neurobiology and behavior and first author of the paper. “Some medications prescribed for the elderly for various conditions contain glucocorticoids. These drugs may be leading to accelerated cognitive decline in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects 4.5 million to 5 million adults in the United States. If no effective therapies are developed, it is estimated that 13 million Americans will be afflicted with the disease by 2050.

In recent years, LaFerla has been at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research. He and other members of his research team developed the transgenic mice used in this study, which are now a model for studying Alzheimer’s around the world. Earlier this year, he announced work on a new compound that not only relieves the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but also reduces the plaques and tangles in the brain.

Lauren Billings, postdoctoral researcher, and Benno Roozendaal, assistant researcher in neurobiology and behavior, collaborated on the study. The work was funded by grants from the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.3 billion. For more UCI news, visit


Questions to explore further this topic:

What is Alzheimer's disease?

What is stress?

What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

Is stress a problem for children?

What are the causes of stress in children?

What is shortterm stress?

What is longterm stress?

Stress tips for children

Is there a relationship between stress and sleep?

Is there a relationship between stress and disease?

Is there a relationship between stress and substance abuse?

What are the different phases of stress?

What are the different kinds of stress?

Stress assessment tool

How can one manage stress?

Positive thinking




What are hormones (endocrine system)?

Stress and Hormones


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:11 am    Post subject: "Stress and the city": Urban birds keep cool Reply with quote

"Stress and the city": Urban birds keep cool
Max Planck Society
1 September 2006

Ornithologists of the Max-Planck-Society demonstrate that urban birds are more resistant to acute stress than forest dwelling birds

Animals colonizing cities are exposed to many novel and potentially stressful situations. Chronic stress, however, can cause deleterious effects. Hence, wild animals would suffer from city life unless they adjusted their stress response to the conditions in a city. Jesko Partecke, Ingrid Schwabl and Eberhard Gwinner of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology Andechs/Seewiesen in Germany have now shown that European blackbirds born in a city have a lower stress response than their forest counterparts. This reduced reactivity probably has a genetic basis and could be the result of the urban-specific selection pressures to which urban blackbirds are exposed (Ecology 87(Cool 2006).

Image: Juvenile European blackbird.

Image: Ingo Teich / MPI for Ornithology

Many species have developed a symbiotic relationship with humans. For example, European blackbirds, European starlings and house sparrows thrive in concrete habitats around the globe. The sparrow is now so closely associated with man that its original niche is unknown, whereas the European blackbird was - as little as 200 years ago - a reclusive forest dweller. These species seem to profit, for instance, by the warmer microclimate and additional anthropogenic food supply in cities. However, they are also confronted with many novel and potentially stressful anthropogenic disturbances, such as the permanent presence of humans, higher densities of cats and dogs, noise and light pollution as well as traffic.

Among the physiological coping mechanisms used by vertebrates - including humans - to ensure survival under adverse environmental conditions is the acute stress response, characterised by the release of glucocorticoid steroid hormones. The acute short-term secretion of these hormones is considered beneficial in that it helps to mediate adaptive behavioural and physiological responses. In prolonged stress situations, however, chronically elevated levels of circulating glucocorticoids can impair reproductive, immune, and brain functions. Thus, wild animals would suffer from city life unless they adjusted their stress response to the conditions in a city.

Whereas changes in the behaviour of urban birds have been frequently documented - e.g. urban blackbirds are often tamer than their relatives from ‘natural’ habitats - it was not previously known whether the physiological stress response also changes to suit the urban life style. If so, then it should be tested whether this adjustment is based on the flexibility of individuals experiencing different environmental conditions or is the result of micro-evolutionary adaptations that have evolved during the urbanisation process.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology Andechs/Seewiesen in Germany, originally under the leadership of the late Max-Planck Director Dr. Eberhard Gwinner, answered these questions in a recent experiment. They hand-raised European blackbird nestlings collected from the centre of Munich, Germany and a nearby forest area (beeline distance 40 kilometres) and kept both groups in the same bird room for one year. These two groups therefore lived under exactly the same controlled environmental conditions, both during their developmental phase and later during the experiment.

During their first autumn, winter and spring, Jesko Partecke applied a standardised capture and handling stressor protocol to all urban and forest blackbirds and simultaneously collected blood samples, to determine the concentration of corticosterone, the stress hormone in birds. Under normal conditions, i.e. undisturbed, urban and forest blackbirds did not differ in their corticosterone secretion. In addition both groups showed a similar acute hormonal stress response during their first fall. This, however, changed considerably during their first winter and spring: Then the stress response of urban blackbirds was distinctly blunted in comparison to their forest counterparts.

‘These results show, for the first time, that city life changes physiological coping mechanisms in wild animals, which are necessary for survival’, said Jesko Partecke. Such a reduced hormonal stress response could be ubiquitous and, presumably, necessary for all animals that thrive in ecosystems exposed to frequent anthropogenic disturbances such as those in urban areas. The scientists suggest that the difference in the hormonal stress response between urban and forest blackbirds is genetically determined and probably the result of the extreme selective forces in the city; as a result, those individuals that get along better with the ‘urban stressors’ enhance their prospects of survival in a city.

Why the two groups of birds did not differ in their stress response during their first autumn is still an unanswered question. ‘One explanation is that the reduced sensitivity of urban blackbirds to stressors occurs later in their life’, speculated Partecke. Data obtained from free-ranging birds in their native urban and forest habitats are also inevitably necessary to verify the observed pattern under natural conditions. In addition, future studies are needed to assess the possible adaptive value of an attenuated stress response in urban habitats, by relating survival and fitness data to the trait variation.
Original work:

Jesko Partecke, Ingrid Schwabl and Eberhard Gwinner
Stress and the city: Urbanization and its effects on the stress physiology in European blackbirds
Ecology, 87(Cool, 1945-1952 (2006)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:00 am    Post subject: Black tea soothes away stress Reply with quote

Black tea soothes away stress
University College London
4 October 2006

Daily cups of tea can help you recover more quickly from the stresses of everyday life, according to a new study by UCL (University College London) researchers. New scientific evidence shows that black tea has an effect on stress hormone levels in the body.

The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, found that people who drank tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who drank a fake tea substitute. Furthermore, the study participants – who drank a black tea concoction four times a day for six weeks – were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood after a stressful event, compared with a control group who drank the fake or placebo tea for the same period of time.

In the study, 75 young male regular tea drinkers were split into two groups and monitored for six weeks. They all gave up their normal tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages, then one group was given a fruit-flavoured caffeinated tea mixture made up of the constituents of an average cup of black tea. The other group – the control group – was given a caffeinated placebo identical in taste, but devoid of the active tea ingredients. All drinks were tea-coloured, but were designed to mask some of the normal sensory cues associated with tea drinking (such as smell, taste and familiarity of the brew), to eliminate confounding factors such as the ‘comforting’ effect of drinking a cup of tea.

Both groups were subjected to challenging tasks, while their cortisol, blood pressure, blood platelet and self-rated levels of stress were measured. In one task, volunteers were exposed to one of three stressful situations (threat of unemployment, a shop lifting accusation or an incident in a nursing home), where they had to prepare a verbal response and argue their case in front of a camera.

The tasks triggered substantial increases in blood pressure, heart rate and subjective stress ratings in both of the groups. In other words, similar stress levels were induced in both groups. However, 50 minutes after the task, cortisol levels had dropped by an average of 47 per cent in the tea drinking group compared with 27 per cent in the fake tea group.

UCL researchers also found that blood platelet activation – linked to blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks – was lower in the tea drinkers, and that this group reported a greater degree of relaxation in the recovery period after the task.

Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, says: “Drinking tea has traditionally been associated with stress relief, and many people believe that drinking tea helps them relax after facing the stresses of everyday life. However, scientific evidence for the relaxing properties of tea is quite limited. This is one of the first studies to assess tea in a double-blind placebo controlled design – that is, neither we nor the participants knew whether they were drinking real or fake tea. This means that any differences were due to the biological ingredients of tea, and not to the relaxing situations in which people might drink tea, whether they were familiar with the taste and liked it, and so on.

“We do not know what ingredients of tea were responsible for these effects on stress recovery and relaxation. Tea is chemically very complex, with many different ingredients. Ingredients such as catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids have been found to have effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, but we cannot tell from this research which ones produced the differences.

“Nevertheless, our study suggests that drinking black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. This has important health implications, because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.”

Notes for Editors

1. For more information, please contact Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, on +44 (0)20 7679 5628, e-mail

2. Alternatively, please contact Jenny Gimpel at the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9739, mobile: +44 (0)7990 675 947, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail:

3. ‘The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial’ is published online in the journal Psychopharmacology. Journalists can obtain copies of the paper by contacting the UCL Media Relations Office or accessing

4. The study was partly funded by Unilever and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

5. The study was carried out by Andrew Steptoe, Leigh Gibson, Raisa Vounonvirta, Emily Williams, Mark Hamer, Jorge Erusalimsky and Jane Wardle at University College London, and Jane Rycroft at Unilever.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2006 11:19 am    Post subject: Job Stress Fuels Disease Reply with quote

Job Stress Fuels Disease

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 22 November 2006
09:23 am ET

The daily rigors of work, such as tight deadlines and long hours, can lead to job burnout, a state scientists are beginning to link with serious ailments.

Studies have shown that workplace stress can lead to an increase in rates of heart disease, flu virus, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. One study found that stress can negate the heart-healthy aspects of a physically active job, leading to thicker arteries in physically active and stressed workers compared with active, non-stressed employees.

A new study of 677 workers in Israel showed those who experienced job burnout were 1.8 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, in which a person's body becomes resistant to the sugar-regulating hormone called insulin. The results held even when factors like age, sex, exercise and obesity were taken into account.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:42 pm    Post subject: Loneliness Associated with Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Dis Reply with quote

February 05, 2007

Loneliness Associated with Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Rush University Medical Center

(Chicago) - Lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease in late life as those who are not lonely, according to a study by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The study is published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Previous studies have shown that social isolation, or having few interactions with others, is associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. However, little was know about the emotional isolation, which refers to feeling alone rather than being alone.

Robert S. Wilson, PhD, and his colleagues, analyzed the association between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease in 823 older adults over a four year period. Participants underwent evaluations that included questionnaires to assess loneliness, classifications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and testing of their thinking, learning and memory abilities. Loneliness was measured on a scale of one to five, with higher scores indicating more loneliness. The data was collected between November 2000 and May 2006.

At the first examination, participants’ average loneliness score was 2.3. During the study period, 76 individuals developed dementia that met criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. Risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease increased approximately 51 percent for each point on the loneliness score, so that a person with a high loneliness score (3.2) had about 2.1 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than a person with a low score (1.4). The findings did not change significantly when the researchers factored in markers of social isolations, such as a small network and infrequent social activities.

According to Wilson, loneliness is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, not an early sign of the disease. Autopsies were performed on 90 individuals who died during the study. Loneliness during life was not related to any of the hallmark brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, including nerve plaques and tangles, or tissue damaged by lack of blood flow.

“Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health,” said Wilson. “The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology.”

The mechanism that does link dementia and loneliness is unclear. Wilson encourages more study to look at how negative emotions cause changes in the brain.

“If loneliness is causing changes in the brain, it is quite possible that medications or changes in behavior could lessen the effects of these negative emotions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Wilson.

The researchers are extremely grateful for the remarkable dedication and altruism of the volunteers participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The research was supported by grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the National Institutes on Aging, which leads the Federal effort to support and conduct basic, clinical, and social and behavioral studies on aging and on Alzheimer’s disease.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 8:45 am    Post subject: Highly accomplished people more prone to failure than others Reply with quote

University of Chicago

Highly accomplished people more prone to failure than others when under stress
17 February 2007

Talented people often choke under pressure because the distraction caused by stress consumes their working memory, a psychologist at the University of Chicago has found.

Highly accomplished people tend to heavily rely on their abundant supply of working memory and are therefore disadvantaged when challenged to solve difficult problems, such as mathematical ones, under pressure, according to research by Sian Beilock, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago. Her findings were presented Saturday, Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

People with less adequate supplies of working memory learn other ways of problem solving to compensate for their deficiencies and although these alternative problem solving strategies are not highly accurate, they are not impacted additionally by working under pressure, the research found.

Beilock found that when put under pressure, the talented people with larger amounts of working memory began using short-cuts to solve problems, such as guessing and estimation, strategies similar to those used by individuals with less adequate working memories. As a result of taking those shortcuts, the accuracy of the talented people was undermined.

"These findings suggest that performance pressure harms higher working memory individuals by consuming the cognitive resources that they rely on for their superior performance – and as a result, higher working memory individuals respond by switching to the less accurate problem solving strategies normally used by lower working memory students," Beilock said.

The results have implications for the evaluation of performance on high stakes tests, such as those needed to advance in school and college entrance examinations, she said.

Working memory is a short-term memory system that maintains a limited amount of information in an active state. It functions by providing information of immediate relevance while preventing distractions and irrelevant thoughts from interfering with the task at hand.

People with a high level of working memory depend on it heavily during problem solving. "If you've got it, flaunt it" Beilock said.

However, that same advantage makes them particularly susceptible to the dangers of stress.

"In essence, feelings of pressure introduce an intrusion that eats up available working memory for talented people," Beilock said.

In order to study the impact of stress on working memory, Beilock and her colleagues tested roughly 100 college undergraduates. They gave them tests to determine the strength of their working memory and then subjected them to a series of complicated, unfamiliar mathematics problems.

Students were given pressure by being told they would be paid for their correct answers, but that they would only receive the money if a partner, chosen randomly who they did not know, would also win. Then they were told that their partner had solved the problem correctly, thus increasing the pressure.

The study showed that as a result of the pressure, the performance of students with strong working memory declined to the same level as those with more limited working memory. Those with more limited working memory performed as well under added pressure as they did without the stress.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:16 am    Post subject: Why Humans (and Baboons) Stress So Much Reply with quote

Why Humans (and Baboons) Stress So Much

By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 19 February 2007
09:36 am ET

SAN FRANCISCO—Being highly intelligent and social, humans suffer from more stress-related diseases than any other animal, worrying about family, health, jobs and even the future. The average beast, on the other hand, does not spend much time worrying about these things.

But baboons do stress out, according to research presented here Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Why is that? The answer sheds light on human stress.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:54 am    Post subject: Severe PTSD damages children's brains, Stanford/Packard stud Reply with quote

Stanford University Medical Center
4 March 2007

Severe PTSD damages children's brains, Stanford/Packard study shows

STANFORD, Calif. -- Severe stress can damage a child's brain, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. The researchers found that children with post-traumatic stress disorder and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol were likely to experience a decrease in the size of the hippocampus - a brain structure important in memory processing and emotion.

Although similar effects have been seen in animal studies, this is the first time the findings have been replicated in children. The researchers focused on kids in extreme situations to better understand how stress affects brain development.

"We're not talking about the stress of doing your homework or fighting with your dad," said Packard Children's child psychiatrist Victor Carrion, MD. "We're talking about traumatic stress. These kids feel like they're stuck in the middle of a street with a truck barreling down at them."

Carrion, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the medical school and director of Stanford's early life stress research program, and his collaborators speculate that cognitive deficits arising from stress hormones interfere with psychiatric therapy and prolong symptoms.

The children in the study were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a result of undergoing physical, emotional or sexual abuse, witnessing violence or experiencing lasting separation and loss. This type of developmental trauma often impairs the child's ability to reach social, emotional and academic milestones.

"We'd really like to understand why some children are more resilient than others, and what the long-term effects of extreme stress are," said Carrion, who is the first author of the research, to be published in the March issue of Pediatrics. "We know, for example, that these children are at higher risk of developing depression and/or anxiety as adults."

One theory posits that everyone carries an ongoing stress burden that accumulates throughout life. Once a certain threshold is reached, either through one or two very traumatic events or through chronic, high levels of stress, adults and children can begin to exhibit PTSD symptoms such as re-experience (including flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or nightmares), avoidance and emotional numbing, and physiological hyperarousal (such as an elevated resting heart rate). These behavioral symptoms make PTSD difficult to differentiate from other conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Children predisposed by genetics or environment to be more anxious than their peers are also more likely to develop PTSD in response to emotional trauma, perhaps because their responses to other life experiences simply left them closer to that threshold than less-anxious children.

The researchers studied 15 children from ages 7 to 13 suffering from PTSD. They measured the volume of the hippocampus at the beginning and end of the 12- to 18-month study period. After correcting for gender and for physiological maturity, they found that kids with more severe PTSD symptoms and higher bedtime cortisol levels (another marker of stress) at the start of the study were more likely to have reductions in their hippocampal volumes at the end of the study than their less-affected, but still traumatized peers.

It is significant that the change in the hippocampal volume corresponds to both PTSD symptom severity and increased cortisol levels. Cortisol belongs to a class of human hormones known as glucocorticoids that have been shown to kill hippocampal cells in animals. In a vicious cycle, a reduction in hippocampal size can make it more difficult for a child to process and deal with traumatic events, which in turn may raise both stress and cortisol levels that cause even more damage.

"Although everyday levels of stress are necessary to stimulate normal brain development, excess levels can be harmful," said Carrion, likening the biological effects of increasing amounts of stress to an inverted U. "One common treatment for PTSD is to help a sufferer develop a narrative of the traumatic experience. But if the stress of the event is affecting areas of the brain responsible for processing information and incorporating it into a story, that treatment may not be as effective."

Carrion and his colleagues are now using an imaging technique known as functional MRI to visualize whether and how the children's brains differ when performing emotional and cognitive tasks.

"What we have now is basically a snapshot," said Carrion. "We can't yet say much about function. But we know that PTSD is chronic and pervasive. Hopefully with further research we can develop more effective, targeted interventions to help these kids."


The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Aloha Foundation.

Other co-authors include professor of psychiatry Allan Reiss, MD, and former postdoctoral scholar Carl Weems, PhD, who is now an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Orleans.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at

Ranked as one of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation by U.S.News & World Report and Child magazine, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 264-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children's offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services - from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:25 am    Post subject: Link found between teens’ stress levels and acne severity Reply with quote

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
5 March 2007

Link found between teens’ stress levels and acne severity

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The largest study ever conducted on acne and stress reveals that teenagers who were under high levels of stress were 23 percent more likely to have increased acne severity, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.

"Acne significantly affects physical and psychosocial well-being, so it is important to understand the interplay between the factors that exacerbate acne," said Gil Yosipovitch, M.D., lead author and a professor of dermatology. "Our study suggests a significant association between stress and severity of acne."

The results of the study, which involved 94 adolescents from Singapore, are reported today in Acta Derm Venereol, a Swedish medical journal.

While psychological stress had been identified among many factors that can worsen acne, there has been little research to understand the mechanisms behind this relationship. The current study looked at whether levels of sebum, the oily substance that coats the skin and protects the hair, increase in times of stress and are related to acne severity. Hormone levels, sebum production and bacteria are all known to play major roles in acne.

The study involved secondary school students in Singapore with a mean age of 14.9 years. The students’ self-reported stress levels and acne severity were measured at two different times – just before mid-year exams and during summer break. Students’ long-term career prospects are influenced by the results of the examinations and they are known to induce psychological stress.

Stress levels were measured using the Perceived Stress Scale, a 14-item, self-questionnaire that is widely used in stress research. Acne severity was measured using a system that classifies acne based on type and number of lesions. Ninety-two percent of the girls and 95 percent of the boys reported having acne.

Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin caused by changes in the hair follicle and the sebaceous glands of the skin that produce sebum. The oily substance plugs the pores, resulting in whiteheads or blackheads (acne comedonica) and pimples (acne papulopustulosa).

The researchers suspected that stress increases the quantity of sebum, which leads to increased acne severity. However, the results showed that sebum production didn’t differ significantly between the high-stress and low-stress conditions.

The researchers did find that students reporting high stress were 23 percent more likely to have increased severity of acne papulopustulosa. Levels of stress were not linked to severity of acne comedonica.

"Our research suggests that acne severity associated with stress may result from factors others than sebum quantity," said Yosipovitch. "It’s possible that inflammation may be involved."

Singapore was selected as the study location because sebum production is known to fluctuate with variations in temperature and humidity. In Singapore’s tropical climate, temperature and humidity are consistent throughout the year.

The research was funded by the National Medical Research Council of Singapore.

Co-researchers were Aerlyn Dawn, M.D., from Wake Forest, Mark Tang, M.D., Chee Leok Goh, M.D., and Yiong Hauk Chan, Ph.D., all from National Skin Center and National University of Singapore, and Lim Fong Seng, M.D., from National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, Singapore.

Media Contact: Shannon Koontz,; at 336-716-4587

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care and 41st in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 35th in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:10 am    Post subject: Stress may help cancer cells resist treatment, research show Reply with quote

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
10 April 2007

Stress may help cancer cells resist treatment, research shows

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine are the first to report that the stress hormone epinephrine causes changes in prostate and breast cancer cells that may make them resistant to cell death.

"These data imply that emotional stress may contribute to the development of cancer and may also reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatments," said George Kulik, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of cancer biology and senior researcher on the project.

The study results are reported on-line in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and will appear in a future print issue.

Levels of epinephrine, which is produced by the adrenal glands, are sharply increased in response to stressful situations and can remain continuously elevated during persistent stress and depression, according to previous research. The goal of the current study was to determine whether there is a direct link between stress hormones and changes in cancer cells.

While a link between stress and cancer has been suggested, studies in large groups of people have been mixed.

"Population studies have had contradictory results," said Kulik. "We asked the question, ‘If stress is linked to cancer, what is the cellular mechanism?’ There had been no evidence that stress directly changes cancer cells."

Studying prostate and breast cancer cells in the laboratory, Kulik and colleagues found that a protein called BAD – which causes cell death – becomes inactive when cancer cells are exposed to epinephrine.

Kulik said that connection between stress and prostate cancer has been largely unexplored. However, recent studies suggest that these laboratory findings may apply to cancer patients.

"A study from Canada showed that men who took beta blockers for hypertension for at least four years had an 18 percent lower risk of prostate cancer," said Kulik. "These drugs block the effects of epinephrine, which could explain the finding. Another study of men after radical prostatectomy reported increased mood disturbances, which are often associated with elevated stress hormones. Although these studies do not directly address the role of stress hormones, they suggest that stress hormones may play an important role in prostate cancer."

Kulik said the findings have several implications for patients and for researchers.

"It may be important for patients who have increased responses to stress to learn to manage the effects," said Kulik. "And, the results point to the possibility of developing an intervention to block the effects of epinephrine."

Kulik is now studying blood samples of prostate cancer patients to determine if there is a link between levels of stress hormones and severity of disease and has begun studying the effects of epinephrine in mice with prostate cancer.

Funding for the study came from the Defense Department’s prostate cancer research program, the Wake Forest University School of Medicine venture fund and the Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Co-researchers were Konduru Sastry, Ph.D., lead author, Yelena Karpova, B.S., Sergey Prokopovich, M.D., Ph.D., Adrienne Joy Smith, B.S., Brian Essau, Ph.D., Ph.D., Thomas Register, Ph.D., Yong Chen, Ph.D., and Raymond Penn, Ph.D., all with Wake Forest; and Avynash Gersappe, M.B.A., Jonathan Carson, Ph.D., and Michael Weber, Ph.D., from the University of Virginia.

Media Contacts: Karen Richardson,, or Shannon Koontz,, at (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care and 41st in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:41 am    Post subject: Stress hits young cancer docs Reply with quote

University of Manchester
14 June 2007

Stress hits young cancer docs

In a survey of 401 oncology registrars, 102 scored above the threshold for possible psychiatric morbidity and more than one in ten showed clinically important levels of depression. The main reasons cited include being over-stretched, keeping up-to-date with knowledge, fear of making mistakes, talking with distressed relatives, and poor senior support and team relations.

Professor Chris Todd and his team at the University's School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work and Christie Hospital, Manchester, publish their findings in 'Occupational stress in palliative medicine, medical oncology and clinical oncology specialist registrars' in the Royal College of Physicians journal Clinical Medicine this month.

Professor Todd says: "It is clear that specialist registrars training in cancer and palliative care are experiencing high levels of stress.

"A number of contributing factors have been identified and should be addressed. It would seem to be a dreadful waste of the current £200,000 invested in training to specialist registrar level to put them under such stress that they are unable to treat patients effectively, themselves experience psychological suffering perhaps requiring healthcare, increased sickness absence or even leave the profession prematurely."

The team surveyed all the palliative medicine, medical oncology and clinical oncology registrars in the country - 63% of the UK's cancer specialist registrars replied- with a questionnaire and a test for short-term changes in mental health.

They found 102 with levels of psychological distress, 44 had scores indicating depression and 15 expressed suicidal ideas.

The main reasons cited by the respondents were being over-stretched at times, keeping up-to-date with knowledge, fear of making mistakes, talking to distressed relatives, the effect of long working hours on personal/family life and conflict between work and family commitment. These were especially pertinent for medical oncology registrars.

Other reasons, which were more important to palliative care registrars, were making the right decision as a team, feeling under-utilised, low prestige of speciality and difficult relations with nursing staff.

Clinical oncology registrars also reported a lack of senior support/supervision. Better support and supervision for all these specialists could alleviate stress.

Professor Todd says: "The items with the highest scores appear to relate to the very issues in clinical practice one might expect these doctors to be concerned about, being competent in the face of conflicting demands on time.

"On the other hand, we were surprised to find issues relating to team working were rated more highly by palliative care registrars, as palliative care is a specialty which espouses the team approach. This may imply that palliative care teams are not functioning as well as previously believed."

The study also found that the effect of stress on personal/family life was the dominant predictor of depression, which tallied with studies of other specialties.

He adds: "Many doctors in various specialties experience high levels of stress during their working lives and are more at risk of depression, alcoholism and suicide than the general population. They also report that it can affect their performance. Cancer clinicians are exposed to high risk of poor mental health and other work has shown that their psychiatric morbidity has increased markedly over recent years. We carried out this study as little is known of oncology registrars' stress levels and what can be done to help at an earlier stage.

"As well as addressing working hours and workload, there needs to be a change in culture to enable these registrars to identify, work through and discuss difficulties without a fear of it adversely affecting career prospects.

"Helpful strategies might include mentorship from a different team or specialty, review of appraisal so that positive as well as negative aspects of work are discussed, encouraging regular peer meetings where registrars may discuss any group issues, or team debriefs where patient- or team-related issues can be aired. In addition senior doctors need to be aware of the impact they have on the working lives of their juniors and be as supportive as possible."

Professor Chris Todd is available for interview from 3pm today (Thursday 14 June 2007). To arrange an interview or for more information contact Media Relations Officer Mikaela Sitford on 0161 275 2111 or 07768 980942.

To see 'Occupational stress in palliative medicine, medical oncology and clinical oncology specialist registrars', Clinical Medicine, June 2007, visit

The University of Manchester developed the first nursing degree in England at its then School of Nursing Studies. Now the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, it has established an acclaimed national and international reputation and is committed to conducting high-quality applied research that provides the evidence to improve care and shape services. At the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the UK in 2001, the School achieved the maximum score of 5 for nursing and midwifery. It also had by far the largest research portfolio of the establishments receiving this accolade. Similarly, social work was assessed as a 5-rated subject at the RAE.

The University of Manchester's Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences boasts an annual research income of £51m, almost a third of the University's total research income. There are 7,600 undergraduate students and 1,600 postgraduates on award-bearing courses. More students graduate each year from the School of Medicine than from any other medical school in the UK. For more information see

The Christie Hospital is one of the leading cancer centres in Europe - registering around 11,000 new patients and treating about 40,000 patients every year.

It also runs one of the largest clinical trials units in the country for phase I/II trials and is a partner in the Manchester Cancer Research Centre with The University of Manchester, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:20 am    Post subject: How we can stop stress from making us obese Reply with quote

Research Australia
1 July 2007

How we can stop stress from making us obese

Professor Herbert Herzog, Director of the Neuroscience Research Program at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, together with scientists from the US and Slovakia, have shown that neuropeptide Y (NPY), a molecule the body releases when stressed, can ‘unlock’ Y2 receptors in the body’s fat cells, stimulating the cells to grow in size and number. By blocking those receptors, it may be possible to prevent fat growth, or make fat cells die.

“We have known for over a decade that there is a connection between chronic stress and obesity,” said Professor Herzog. “We also know that NPY plays a major role in other chronic stress-induced conditions, such as susceptibility to infection. Now we have identified the exact pathway, or chain of molecular events, that links chronic stress with obesity.”

“There is not much we can do about the increased levels of NPY caused by stress, but we can do something about the damage it causes. If we can interfere before it causes fat to amass, it could have a major impact on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer (which all have links with obesity).”

“Basically, when we have a stress reaction, NPY levels rise in our bodies, causing our heart rate and blood pressure to go up, among other things. Stress reactions are normal, unavoidable, and generally serve a useful purpose in life. It’s when stress is chronic that its effects become damaging.”

Scientists at Georgetown University (Washington D.C), part of this collaborative study, have found a direct connection between stress, a high calorie diet and unexpectedly high weight gain. Stressed and unstressed mice were fed normal diets and high calorie (high fat and high sugar, or so called ‘comfort food’) diets. The mice on normal diets did not become obese. However, stressed mice on high calorie diets gained twice as much fat as unstressed mice on the same diet. The novel and unexpected finding was that when stressed and non-stressed animals ate the same high calorie foods, the stressed animals utilised and stored fat differently.

“Our findings suggest that we may be able to reverse or prevent obesity caused by stress and diet, including the worst kind of obesity; the apple-shaped type, which makes people more susceptible to heart disease and diabetes,” says senior author of the Nature Medicine paper, Professor Zofia Zukowska of Georgetown University. “Using animal models, in which we have either blocked the Y2 receptor, or selectively removed the gene from the abdominal fat cells, we have shown that stressed mice on high calorie diets do not become obese. “Even more surprisingly, in addition to having flatter bellies, adverse metabolic changes linked to stress and diet, which include glucose intolerance and fatty liver, became markedly reduced. We do not know yet exactly how that happens, but the effect was remarkable,” she said.

Professor Herzog believes that these research findings will have a profound effect on the way society will deal with the obesity epidemic. “There are millions of people around the world who have lived with high levels of stress for so long their bodies think it’s ‘normal’. If these people also eat a high fat and high sugar diet, which is what many do as a way to reduce their stress, they will become obese.”

“Until now, the pharmaceutical industry has focused on appetite suppressants with only moderate success. Our hope is that in the near future pharmaceutical companies, using the results of our research, will develop antagonists against the Y2 receptor that will bring about a reduction in fat cells.”

Notes to editors:

Stress-activated adipogenic pathway in fat tissue exaggerates diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Kuo, L.E., Kitlinska, J.B., Tilan, J.U., Li, L., Baker, S.B., Johnson, M.D., Lee, E.W., Burnett, M.S., Fricke, S.T., Kvetnansky, R.K., Herzog, H. & Zukowska, Z.
Nature Medicine advance online publication, 1 July 2007

The study was co-funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Slovak Research and Development Agency.


The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963. Initially a research department of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia's largest medical research institutions with approximately 400 scientists, students and support staff. Garvan’s main research programs are: Cancer, Diabetes & Obesity, Arthritis & Immunology, Osteoporosis, and Neuroscience. The Garvan’s mission is to make significant contributions to medical science that will change the directions of science and medicine and have major impacts on human health. The outcome of Garvan’s discoveries is the development of better methods of diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of disease.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:42 pm    Post subject: Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Team to study psychosocial stress Reply with quote

Carnegie Mellon University
16 October 2007

Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Team to study psychosocial stress
eWatch will measure exposure to daily life stressors

PITTSBURGH— Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, led by Pitt Psychology Professor Thomas Kamarck, are studying the effectiveness of a wrist-mounted instrument for measuring psychosocial stress exposure during the course of daily life.

Kamarck and his colleagues have received a $426,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the first year of their four-year project, which is part of a larger NIH initiative to study environmental factors that people encounter every day that may increase their risk of certain diseases.

The study will make use of the eWatch, a multisensor package about the size of a large wristwatch that has been developed by Daniel Siewiorek, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, and Asim Smailagic, research professor in Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering. Both are co-investigators in the new study.

Previous studies have determined that people who report highly stressful lifestyles may develop higher rates of a variety of illnesses, ranging from viral infection to heart disease, but measuring exposure to stress is problematic.

However, Kamarck says traditional methods of measuring life stress don’t quantify the duration or intensity of exposure effectively. For example, “a husband and wife may react to the death of the same relative very differently,” he said. “Furthermore, stress is an ongoing fluctuating process. At what point does a stressor begin or end?”

In the new study, Kamarck will outfit each participant with an eWatch, which can sense sound, motion, ambient light, skin temperature and other factors that provide clues about the wearer’s location, health status and current activity. Every 45 minutes over the course of five days, the eWatch will prompt wearers to take part in a 2-to-3-minute interview. The instrument will record their response to questions about their current activities, such as “Working hard?” and “Working fast?” By the end of the study, several hundred people will have tested the eWatch.

Previous research has shown that responses to such interviews help predict who will show higher rates of plaque development in the arteries, a risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Using interviews in real time allows researchers to quantify how stressors affect one’s daily life, as well as to pinpoint when these effects begin and when they end.

Use of the eWatch technology should assist researchers in finding the optimal method for responding to such interviews during daily activities, whether by pressing a button, moving the wrist or speaking into a wireless ear bug device. Environmental data collected by the eWatch also may assist the researchers in characterizing the types of environments people find most stressful, so that their location, such as home or work, may be recorded automatically.

“We want to capture a slice of life in people’s daily routine,” says Kamarck. “We hope that these new tools will allow us to do so while minimizing disruptions imposed by the act of measurement.”

First developed in 2004 as a class project at Carnegie Mellon, the eWatch has been the subject of a number of studies in which it has shown itself capable of monitoring behaviors and conditions.

“This new study is important in eWatch’s development because it requires that we simplify the device’s operation,” Siewiorek said. “The eWatch must be simple enough to be used by anyone who wears it, even those who are not technically savvy. And we need to develop manuals and written procedures that will make it possible for other research groups to use it to gather data for their own studies.”

The study is part of the NIH Genes, Environment and Health Initiative, a collaboration between geneticists and social and behavioral scientists that will give researchers an unprecedented look at the gene-environment interactions and effects on disease across large population samples. In addition to Siewiorek and Smailagic, Kamarck’s collaborators include Pitt Psychology Professor Saul Shiffman and Pitt Research Associate Barbara Anderson.

About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. For more, see
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:50 am    Post subject: Secret to Stress Revealed in Mice Reply with quote

Secret to Stress Revealed in Mice
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 18 October 2007 12:13 pm ET

Stress busters run the gamut from bubble baths and spiritual endeavors to anti-anxiety drugs and the bottom of a martini glass. But a new mouse study suggests the real secret to overcoming stress is hidden in the brain.

Mice, like humans, react to stressful circumstances in various ways, with some individuals snapping back to a cheery demeanor and others sinking into depression. Scientists have wondered why some people and other animals cope well and others don't.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 10:37 am    Post subject: Social stress + darkness = increased anxiety Reply with quote


Social stress + darkness = increased anxiety

Philadelphia, PA, October 17, 2007 – Just in time for Halloween, researchers are releasing new data that show darkness increases the impact of social stress, in an article scheduled for publication in the November 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry. As children and adults alike gear up for the anticipation and excitement of this “spooky” holiday, this study lends a further understanding to our inherent fear of the dark.

Grillon and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health sought to examine whether stress increases unconditioned fear in humans. To do this, they measured the startle reflex of healthy volunteers in either light or dark conditions, and after either a socially stressful situation of public speaking, or after a period of relaxation. The startle response is a sensitive tool for measuring anxiety levels, and in this study, was measured when volunteers were presented with white noise stimuli via headphones. The authors found that the startle response was boosted when the volunteers were in complete darkness, and this effect was more pronounced after the stressor.

Dr. Christian Grillon, lead author on the project, explains, “Because stress has been linked to the precipitation of emotional disturbances, sometimes to a pathological level, it is important to understand how stress affects our brain and behavior.” He adds, “We report that a mild acute stressor increases subsequent experimental anxiety in healthy subjects. The demonstration of stress-induced anxiety in the laboratory is important because it provides how stress alters nervous system function.”

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments, “The authors show that social stress and darkness interact to increase the startle response. The refinement of this research method may help us to understand how threatening contexts and stressful social interactions interact at a mechanistic level to contribute to anxiety disorders." Although this work is performed to further the scientific community’s understanding of anxiety disorders, nearly all of us have felt scared or anxious in the dark at one time or another. So, the next time you check for monsters in the closet before climbing into bed, or when you peer into the dark bushes before your next “trick-or-treat,” just remember that it’s normal to jump when someone shouts “Boo!”
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:51 pm    Post subject: Older Workers Less Stressed (Find Out Why) Reply with quote

Older Workers Less Stressed (Find Out Why)
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 19 November 2007 10:30 am ET

With age come wisdom and less stress. Older individuals say they experience less work-related stress, according to a new survey that indicates the secret could be the absence of children at home.

"Many older workers are empty-nesters," said researcher Gwenith Fisher, an organizational psychologist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR). "They don't have the same work-personal conflicts that younger and middle-aged workers deal with, juggling responsibilities to children along with their jobs and their personal needs."

The study, presented in San Francisco at an annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, has wide implications since by 2010 middle-aged and older workers are expected to outnumber their younger colleagues, say the study scientists.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:16 pm    Post subject: How stress alleviates pain Reply with quote

Cell Press
5 December 2007

How stress alleviates pain

One way to alleviate the pain of banging your shin while on a hike is to encounter a grizzly bear—a well-known phenomenon called stress-induced analgesia. Now, researchers have elucidated a key mechanism by which the stress hormone noradrenaline—which floods the bloodstream during grizzly encounters and other stressful events—affects the brain’s pain-processing pathway to produce such analgesia.

Pankaj Sah and colleagues published their findings in the December 6, 2007, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

In an accompanying perspective article on the research, Harvard Medical School researchers Keith Tully, Yan Li, and Vadim Bolshakov wrote that “The impressive new study… provides important mechanistic clues helping to explain this phenomenon.”

In their experiments, Sah and colleagues studied a region of the amygdala, the brain’s emotion-processing region known to mediate the emotional and stress-related aspects of pain. Researchers had long known that these amygdala-based processes were controlled by neurons that originated in the brainstem and that were regulated by noradrenaline.

Sah and colleagues sought in their studies to understand the mechanism by which noradrenaline influences neuronal transmission of pain inputs from the brainstem region known as the pontine parabrachial (PB).

In their experiments with rats, the researchers analyzed the effects of noradrenaline on electrical stimulation of the pathway between the PB and amygdala. They found that noradrenaline acted as a powerful suppressor of that stimulation. The researchers’ studies also revealed that noradrenaline suppression acted on the “transmission” side of the connections between neurons, called synapses. Their analyses revealed how noradrenaline causes such suppression: by activating specific receptors, called adrenocreceptors, on the PB neurons.

The researchers’ studies showed that noradrenaline’s action appears to reduce the number of sites that launch the chemical signals called neurotransmitters by which one neuron triggers a nerve impulse in another, reported the researchers.

They concluded that “Our results show that an important mediator of stress-induced analgesia could be the potent modulation by noradrenaline of [pain] PB inputs in the central amygdala.”


The researchers include Andrew J. Delaney, James W. Crane, and Pankaj Sah, of the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject: Working Moms: Keys to Lower Stress Reply with quote

Working Moms: Keys to Lower Stress
By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor

posted: 01 January 2008 11:38 am ET

New research suggests having a helpful husband can lower stress levels for working mothers. Keeping the faith can be beneficial, too.

In one new study, women who stopped being religiously active were far more likely to show signs of anxiety and alcohol abuse. In separate research reported this week, women who work and have children were found to have lower stress if they were happily married.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 11:55 am    Post subject: Understanding the have-knots: The role of stress in just abo Reply with quote

Association for Psychological Science
8 January 2008

Understanding the have-knots: The role of stress in just about everything

Stress, to put it bluntly, is bad for you. It can kill you, in fact. A study now reveals that stress causes deterioration in everything from your gums to your heart and can make you more susceptible to everything from the common cold to cancer. Thanks to new research crossing the disciplines of psychology, medicine, neuroscience, and genetics, the mechanisms underlying the connection are rapidly becoming understood.

The first clues to the link between stress and health were provided in the 1930s by Hans Selye, the first scientist to apply the word “stress”— then simply an engineering term— to the strains experienced by living organisms in their struggles to adapt and cope with changing environments.

One of Selye’s major discoveries was that the stress hormone cortisol had a long-term effect on the health of rats.

Cortisol has been considered one of the main culprits in the stress-illness connection, although it plays a necessary role in helping us cope with threats. When an animal perceives danger, a system kicks into gear: A chain reaction of signals releases various hormones — most notably epinephrine (“adrenaline”), norepinephrine, and cortisol — from the adrenal glands above each kidney.

These hormones boost heart rate, increase respiration, and increase the availability of glucose (cellular fuel) in the blood, thereby enabling the famous “fight or flight” reaction.

Because these responses take a lot of energy, cortisol simultaneously tells other costly physical processes — including digestion, reproduction, physical growth, and some aspects of the immune system — to shut or slow down.

When occasions to fight or flee are infrequent and threats pass quickly, the body’s stress thermostat adjusts accordingly: Cortisol levels return to baseline (it takes 40-60 minutes), the intestines resume digesting food, the sex organs kick back into gear, and the immune system resumes fighting infections.

But problems occur when stresses don’t let up —or when, for various reasons, the brain continually perceives stress even if it isn’t really there.

Stress begins with the perception of danger by the brain, and it appears that continued stress can actually bias the brain to perceive more danger by altering brain structures such as those which govern the perception of and response to threat. Prolonged exposure to cortisol inhibits the growth of new neurons, and can cause increased growth of the amygdala, the portion of the brain that controls fear and other emotional responses.

The end result is heightened expectation of and attention to threats in the environment. Stress hormones also inhibit neuron growth in parts of the hippocampus, a brain area essential in forming new memories. In this way, stress results in memory impairments and impairs the brain’s ability to put emotional memories in context.

Think of it this way: Too much stress and you forget not to be stressed out.

These brain changes are thought by some researchers to be at the heart of the link between stress and depression — one of stress’s most devastating health consequences — as well as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although when we think of stressors we might think of big things like abuse, illness, divorce, grieving, or getting fired, it is now known that the little things — traffic, workplace politics, noisy neighbors, a long line at the bank — can add up and have a similar impact on our well-being and our health.

People who report more minor irritants in their lives also have more mental and physical health problems than those who encounter fewer hassles. And recent research shows that PTSD may be the result of stressors adding up like building blocks, remodeling the plastic brain in a cumulative rather than a once-and-for-all fashion.

But the best known of stress’s health impacts are on the heart.

The idea that stress directly causes coronary heart disease has been around since the 1950s; although once controversial, the direct stress-cardiac link is now well-documented by many studies. For instance, men who faced chronic stresses at work or at home ran a 30 percent higher likelihood of dying over the course of a nine-year study; in another study, individuals reporting neglect, abuse, or other stressors in childhood were over three times as likely as nonstressed individuals to develop heart disease in adulthood.

Adding insult to injury, stress may even have a selfperpetuating effect. Depression and heart disease, for example, are not only the results of stress, but also causes of (more) stress. Consequently, the chronically stressed body can appear less like a thermostat than like a wailing speaker placed too close to a microphone — a feedback loop in which the stress response goes out of control, hastening physical decline with age.

Growing evidence shows that our sensitivity to stress as adults is already “tuned,” so to speak, in infancy. Specifically, the amount of stress encountered in early life sensitizes an organism to a certain level of adversity; high levels of early life stress may result in hypersensitivity to stress later, as well as to adult depression.

A history of various stressors such as abuse and neglect in early life are a common feature of those with chronic depression in adulthood, for example.

At McGill University in Montreal, Michael J. Meaney and his colleagues have studied mother and infant rats, using rat maternal behavior as a model of early life stress and its later ramifications in humans. The key variable in the world of rat nurturance is licking and grooming. Offspring of rat mothers who naturally lick and groom their pups a lot are less easily startled as adults and show less fear of novel or threatening situations — in other words, less sensitivity to stress — than offspring of less nurturant mothers.

The same thing is true of offspring of naturally less nurturant mothers who are raised (or “cross-fostered”) by more nurturant ones. By the same token, low-licking-and-grooming rat mothers are themselves more fearful than the more nurturant rat moms; but again, female offspring of those non-nurturant mothers foster-parented by nurturant mothers show less fear and are themselves more nurturant when they have pups of their own.

This indicates that the connection between maternal nurturance and stress responsiveness is not simply genetic, but that fearfulness and nurturance are transmitted from generation to generation through maternal behavior.

The vicious cycle of stress hormones biasing us to perceive more threat and react with an increased stress response might seem like some kind perverse joke played by nature — or at least a serious design flaw in the brain. But it makes better sense if we take the brain out of its modern, urban, “civilized” context.

The stress response is a necessary response to danger.

For animals, including most likely our hominid ancestors, behavioral transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity from parents to offspring makes sense as an adaptation to fluctuating levels of danger in the environment.

Animals raised in chronically adverse conditions (e.g., high conflict, material deprivation) may expect more of the same in the near future; so in effect, the maternal treatment of offspring attunes them to the level of stress they may expect to encounter in their lives. As such, a response that seems baffling and counterproductive in a modern, civilized context may make more sense in the context of our distant evolutionary past.

Even depression has been theorized as playing an adaptive role in certain contexts.

The inactivity, lack of motivation, loss of interest in pleasurable activities like sex, and withdrawal from social relationships experienced by depressed people closely resemble “sickness behavior” — the energy-saving lethargy activated by the immune system in response to infection.

In a natural setting, the hopeless attitude of depression may be the most adaptive for an organism infected with a pathogen: The best strategy for survival is not to expend energy fruitlessly and become exposed to predators, but to hunker down, hide from threats, and direct energy to immune processes where it’s needed.

And it turns out that baboons suffer from depression and other stress-related disorders, just like people do. According to Stanford neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, who has studied stress in baboon troops, it is the relative safety from predators and high amounts of leisure time enjoyed by some primates — including humans — that has transformed these useful biological coping mechanisms into a source of pointless suffering and illness.

Besides heart disease, PTSD, and depression, chronic stress has been linked to ailments as diverse as intestinal problems, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, adult-onset diabetes, growth problems, and even cancer. Chronic rises in stress hormones have been shown to accelerate the growth of precancerous cells and tumors; they also lower the body’s resistance to HIV and cancer-causing viruses like human papilloma virus (the precursor to cervical cancer in women).

The great challenge in stress psychology — and the necessary precursor to developing interventions against stress’s harmful effects — has been understanding the mechanisms by which thoughts and feelings and other “mental” stuff can affect bodily health.

For many years, it was believed that the main causal link between stress and disease was the immune suppression that occurs when the body redirects its energy toward the fight-or-flight response. But recent research has revealed a far more nuanced picture.

Stress is known to actually enhance one important immune response, inflammation, and increasingly this is being seen as the go-between in various stress-related diseases.

Ordinarily, inflammation is how the healthy body deals with damaged tissue: Cells at the site of infections or injuries produce signaling chemicals called cytokines, which in turn attract other immune cells to the site to help repair it. Cytokines also travel to the brain and are responsible for initiating sickness behavior. Overactive cytokine production has been found to put individuals at greater risk for a variety of aging-related illnesses.

Cytokines may be an important mediator in the relationship between stress and heart disease. When the arteries feeding the heart are damaged, cytokines induce more blood flow, and thus more white blood cells, to the site. White blood cells accumulate in vessel walls and, over time, become engorged with cholesterol, becoming plaques; these may later become destabilized and rupture, causing heart attacks.

Cytokine action also has been implicated in the link between stress and depression. People suffering from clinical depression have shown 40–50 percent higher concentrations of certain inflammatory cytokines. And about 50 percent of cancer patients whose immune responses are artificially boosted through the administration of cytokines show depressive symptoms.

The close connection between inflammation and both depression and heart disease has led some researchers to theorize that inflammation may be what mediates the two-way street between these two conditions: Depression can lead to heart disease, but heart disease also often leads to depression.

Sleep may be part of this puzzle too, as disturbed sleep, which often goes with anxiety and depression, increases levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the body.

Not everyone responds the same way to stress. Personality traits like negativity, pessimism, and neuroticism are known to be risk factors for stress-related disease, as are anger and hostility.

In the late 1950s, Friedman and Rosenman identified a major link between stress and health with their research on the “Type A” personality: a person who is highly competitive, aggressive, and impatient. This personality was found to be a strong predictor of heart disease, and later research clarified the picture: The salient factors in the relationship between the Type A personality and health are mainly anger, hostility, and a socially dominant personality style (for example, tending to interrupt other people while they are talking).

When negative emotions like anger are chronic, it is as if the body is in a constant state of fight or flight.

There is now evidence that another trait associated with success-striving in the modern world — persistence — may also lead to health problems in some circumstances. When goals are not readily attainable, the inability to detach from them may produce frustration, exhaustion, rumination on failures, and lack of sleep. These in turn activate harmful inflammatory responses that can lead to illness and lowered immunity.

Studies also have shown that optimistic people have lower incidence of heart disease, better prognosis after heart surgery, and longer life.

The effects of a positive attitude on immunity were shown in a study by Sheldon Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues, in which individuals were exposed to a cold virus in a laboratory setting and watched over six days. Those with a positive emotional style were less likely to develop colds than were individuals with low levels of positive affect. Positive affect was also found to be correlated with reduced symptom severity and reduced pain.

Personality and environmental factors are not the whole story when it comes to stress.

The next frontier of stress research is the rapidly growing field of behavioral genetics. Modeling the interaction of genetic and environmental influences is no longer a matter of weighing the relative input of nature and nurture. The two intertwine in subtle and complicated ways, with environments affecting gene expression, and vice versa, throughout life. Thus, the current watchword is “stress-diathesis” models, in which environmental stressors have varying impact on individuals due to preexisting inherited vulnerabilities.

One major advance in this area was the discovery by Avshalom Caspi, University of Wisconsin, and his colleagues of a link between stress sensitivity and a particular gene called 5HTTLPR. Findings suggest certain genetic makeup seems to increase the risk for a serious illness through the mechanism of increased sensitivity to stressful occurrences.

Nathan Fox, University of Maryland, and his colleagues subsequently reported that children with two short alleles of the 5HTTLPR gene, whose mothers also reported receiving low social support, were more likely to show behavioral inhibition (fearfulness and a tendency to withdraw) at age 7. Those receiving high support did not show the tendency, and those with the long alleles but receiving low support also appeared “protected” by their genetic makeup.

Genetic predisposition to stress sensitivity may in some cases become a self-fulfilling cycle. Fox and colleagues found that some very behaviorally inhibited children were regarded by their mothers as hard to soothe and received less care and sensitivity as a result; this in turn tuned up the child’s sensitivity to stress. In the model Fox and colleagues propose, genetically influenced temperament in early childhood influences the quality of caregiving children receive, which in turn shapes a child’s attention bias to threat.

But look on the bright side: The newly refined science of stress could lead to new drug therapies that can control stress or inhibit its effects on health. Also, depression and anxiety are not only results of stress, but also causes, and existing therapeutic and medical treatments for these conditions can help change how people perceive threats, put their life challenges in context, and cut stressors down to manageable size. The cycle doesn’t have to be vicious, in other words.

What’s more, the confirmation that the mind directly affects the body can work as much in our favor as it does to our detriment, as the personality-and-stress research above indicates.

As Carol Dweck, Stanford University, has argued, personality is mutable. In theory, if our outlooks and beliefs about ourselves can be changed, so can our vulnerability to life’s slings and arrows. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, for example, have been confirmed to quell stress demons.

Even if you are a determined workaholic glued to your cell phone or a fearful and angry urban neurotic, stress-reduction methods are readily available to cope with stress in the short term and even alter perceptions of stressors in the long term. The bottom line: Stress is not inevitable.

Current Research on Stress:

At the University of Chicago, APS President John Cacioppo and Louise Hawkley have studied the health effects of social isolation, an increasingly common malady in the modern world. Among their findings are that lonely older adults show more arterial stiffening and higher blood pressure than their nonlonely counterparts and that the association between loneliness and blood pressure increases with age.

In middle-aged and older adults (but not young adults), loneliness is associated with higher levels of epinephrine in the blood, and lonely people of all ages show elevated levels of cortisol. By desensitizing the mechanism whereby cortisol turns off more cortisol production, the social isolation frequently experienced by older adults may hasten physical decline. Lonely individuals of all ages also have poorer sleep than nonlonely people and therefore get less of sleep’s essential restorative benefits.

Humans and other social animals particularly seek the company of others when facing threats — both for safety and for social support. The general affiliative response — what Shelley Taylor, UCLA, has called “tending and befriending.” Oxytocin rises during times of separation or disrupted social relations. Just as the familiar “adrenaline rush” of epinephrine induces the familiar fight-or-flight reaction, it is oxytocin that causes us to desire company and social togetherness.

It may be especially important in females, reflecting their different reproductive and survival priorities from those of males — i.e., caregiving (tending offspring) and lessening social tensions through friendly overtures (befriending).
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:24 pm    Post subject: Why Stress Is Deadly Reply with quote

Why Stress Is Deadly
By LiveScience Staff

posted: 15 January 2008 09:31 am ET

If you're worried about your health, stop. You're only making it worse. Stress takes its toll on your body, and new research reveals it is even more dangerous than thought.

Stress causes deterioration in everything from your gums to your heart and can make you more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer, according to a review essay in the Dec. 2007 issue of the Association for Psychological Science's magazine Observer. Thanks to new research crossing the disciplines of psychology, medicine, neuroscience and genetics, the mechanisms underlying the connection are rapidly becoming understood.

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