Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our brain on stress

Chronic stress can actually reshape and shrink the brain.

Studies have shown that mice living under chronic stress (confined in a wire cage) have “retraction in the projections, or dendrites, of some of the neurons in the hippocampus” and the hippocampus (an area of the brain important for mood, memory, and cognition) shrinks in overall volume.

A specific protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), has been found to mediate the growth and adaptability of neurons. The less BDNF, the less neurons can adapt and grow, and the more the brain shrinks.

So why should we care about this BDNF business?! Because exercise increases BDNF release! As The Ratey Institute* points out, exercise-induced BDNF release may make the brain more resistant to stress.

This study showed that just three months of endurance training significantly increased the release of BDNF. Wow! What might yoga does to BDNF levels?! Maybe we can test this on our Philadelphia ashtangis at some point… :)


*The Ratey Institute is an organization dedicated to 1) the scientific study of the brain/body connection, and 2) improving educational and public policies to optimize physical and mental health… getting people moving and exercising. Dr. John Ratey, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that: “The marriage of the brain and body bathed in the effects of exercise creates the essential environment for optimal mental and physical health.” 

1 comment:

  1. Fortune smiled on me genetically with that I started out with a big brain and was supersmart. Similar to the mice under chronic stress my brain has been shrinking alot for many years.
    The facts of research can be applied.

    This is scary:
    "The most effective way to do it, is to do it."
    -Amelia Earhart