Acute stress good for cognition, mental alertness

Stressed out man

Stressed out manWhile chronic stress is generally thought to be toxic, a new study finds that short-term stress may actually improve cognitive performance. The data comes from the University of California’s Berkeley campus, where researchers closely examined the relationship between different types of stress and brain function. The study focused on rats that endured short but significant exposures to stress. These short-lived stressful events were found to trigger the development of new nerve cells. After two weeks, these matured cells seemed to improve mental performance in the rats. In fact, the rats that had been exposed to acute stress outperformed other rats in memory tests. UC Berkeley credits the intermittent stressful events with sharpening the brain’s alertness. “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance,” Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, said in a statement. According to Kaufer, the study holds the most significance for understanding how these kinds of events affect memory. Memory retention, which stems from a part of the brain called the hippocampus, can be weakened by elevated levels of stress hormones. Ongoing anxiety has been found to increase these hormones. Frequent, chronic agitation has been linked to negative impacts on overall health. This includes heart disease and cancer, among other conditions. A recent study actually found that frequent arguing may make you more likely to die in middle age.

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