There may be a way to stop stress taking its toll on your body.
10th March 2020
Research on rats is providing insight into the neural pathways linked to psychosocial stress and its physical impact. Psychosocial stress is caused by social interactions which lead to symptoms such as fever, release of hormones that affect behaviour and increased blood flow. Researchers found that inhibiting the pathway in the rats prevented the physiological responses to stress without impacting normal bodily functions. This finding holds promise for targeting pathways to alleviate the physical impacts of stress.
Common stress associated symptoms such as increased heartbeat and rapid changes in body temperature are believed to be the mechanisms by which the body can cope during the ‘fight-or-flight’ scenario. This mechanism is of use at times when humans are genuinely threatened. But for many people, truly life-threatening situations are not the norm and the fight-or-flight scenario can impact the quality of life. Indeed, such stress can lead to increased risk of hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
Scientists have identified a neural pathway that drives the physiological responses to stress by connecting stress circuits in the hypothalamus. Experiments with a rat model revealed that pyramidal neurons in previously unexplored deep brain regions transmitted stress-driven signals to the back, midline region of the hypothalamus, where there are pathways controlling body temperature and inflammatory fever. Selective inhibition of the circuit in rats removed the physiological response to stress without affecting the rat’s baseline homeostasis.
Source URL: Science mag publisher AAAS, the Science Society