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STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

Geeta Mohan
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• The hippocampus is a small organ , horse shoe


shaped, located within the brain's medial temporal
lobe and forms an important part of the limbic
system, the region that regulates emotions.
• It is a central component of the limbic system–the
emotional center of the brain–and is responsible for
forming, consolidating, and storing memories,
emotional learning and regulation, decision-
making, creativity, empathy, and an important role
in spatial orientation / spatial navigation.
• The hippocampus is associated mainly with
memory, in particular long-term memory.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• Hippocampus abnormalities are implicated in a


range of cognitive and emotional disorders,
including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and
transient global amnesia.
• Researchers have found that traumatic events and
severe stress can cause shrinkage of this area of
the brain, with significant changes observed in
both men and women who suffer from Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder as the result of sexual
assault or combat.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the


brain’s control center for the reaction to stress.
Norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol are some
of the main signals the body uses to initiate the
fight-or-flight response. They redirect metabolism to
the limbs, slow digestion, increase blood sugar and
blood pressure, and provide energy for conquering or
running from the stressful situation. Animals need
this physiological change to happen in their bodies,
as usually the stressor is a predator that would
require huge amounts of energy to run from or fight.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

The HPA axis works in conjunction with many other


areas of the brain and glands throughout the body.
The hippocampus, located in the medial temporal
lobe of the brain, is necessary for cognitive
functions such as learning, memory, and regulation
of behavior.
It plays a key role in gathering and encoding
information and then later retrieving that
information.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• During times of stress, the brain needs to focus on


sensory stimuli and quick problem-solving, so
hippocampus function is altered
• The hippocampus is less functional during times of
both acute and chronic stress. There are
corticosteroid (cortisol) receptors all over the
hippocampus, which is why stress can so readily
impede this part of the brain.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• The two important receptors to know are called MRs


(mineralocorticoid receptors) and GRs (glucocorticoid
receptors). MRs have a high affinity for cortisol and are
bound to cortisol even when a stress response isn’t
occurring, which is necessary for normal hippocampus
function and flow of information.
• GRs have much less affinity for cortisol and are
typically only activated when cortisol levels are high
(when you are stressed). When GRs are activated,
neuronal formation of new memories is
suppressed. This balance of cortisol promoting
information flow but hindering hippocampus function
during times of stress is necessary for a healthy
response to stress.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

Chronic stress can cause long-term damage to the


hippocampus.
Hippocampus itself has been shown to shrink in size
in people suffering from an ongoing HPA axis stress
response.
Nerve cells, the body’s way of conducting
information and signals from one part to another, are
typically highly branched or elongated. Stress
causes reduced nerve branching and development
and even causes nerve cell death in the
hippocampus.
Nerve cells are also less elongated in individuals
with stressful lifestyles or who grew up in a stressful
household
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• GRs( Glucocorticoid receptors) on the hippocampus


become over activated with ongoing stress, which
prevents nerve cell excitation. The combination of
hippocampus shrinkage, nerve cell damage, and
overactivation of GRs causes an inability to retrieve
and form memories.
• This explains why both short and long-term stress can
cause memory lapses and poor focus. It is common for
people to be incapable of recalling the details of a
traumatic event
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• Cortisol released during a stress response has also


been shown to damage contextual memory, meaning
memories may be formed but their context is
ambiguous.
For example, repeated stressful stimuli from a
traumatic situation (such as combat) can cause severe
anxiety and PTSD , where one can recall and relive the
general state of fear, but not the details of the situation
that provoked fear
• PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder ) is brought on by witnessing a
terrifying, usually life-threatening, event. Severe anxiety, flashbacks,
uncontrollable thoughts and nightmares are common symptoms of the
illness.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• Stress in early childhood is also associated with


diminished nerve function and reduced capacity for
memorizing information. It is possible to restore
hippocampus function and improve memory
through lifestyle modifications and various
restorative therapies for HPA axis balance.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• The hippocampus can be vulnerable to factors such


as high levels of sugar and starch consumption,
and the free radical damage that can result.
Various autoimmune difficulties and allergic
reactions can also cause inflammation that
damages this area of the brain.
• Even nutritional deficiencies, particularly
deficiencies in critical B-complex vitamins and
omega-3s can be a cause
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

Hippocampus Dysregulation Symptoms


• Insomnia and other sleep disorders
• Lack of energy in the afternoon
• Increased energy in the evening
• Cognitive, memory, and learning difficulties
• Low tolerance for stress
• Uncontrollable mood swings
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

Hippocampus can shrink as easily as it can grow.


Some of the ways it quickly shrivels it within months
or years include stress, anxiety, untreated depression,
obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, sedentary lifestyle,
eating junk food, and concussions.
Each of these negative risk factors have been
associated with a smaller size hippocampus and a
higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease in
the future.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

• Research shows that we have the capacity to grow new


neurons above and beyond what is generally produced in
our hippocampus and to make them become mature and
strong within weeks and months.
• The best way to generate new hippocampal neurons is to
exercise
• In one study comparing brains of two groups of mice, the
group that was assigned to running (lived in a cage with
a running wheel in it) generated far more new neurons in
their hippocampus than the group that was assigned to a
regular cage without a running refill.
• Other studies have shown that people who exercise
regularly and are physically fit have a much bigger
hippocampus. The more you walk, the bigger your
hippocampus will get and the less would be your risk for
developing Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed that
walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s
disease by 48%.
STRESS and HIPPOCAMPUS

Hippocampus can grow even without generating brand


new neurons. The small premature neurons that are born
every day have the capacity to grow taller, larger, and
stronger by getting the right nutrition (olive oil, salmon
and other food that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and
nuts), plenty of oxygen, and stimulation.
Other simple lifestyle interventions can also grow the
hippocampus size. Stress reduction and meditation, for
example, have been shown to substantially expand the
volume of hippocampus. Treatment of sleep apnea is
another way you can grow the hippocampus.
Learning a new language or challenging one’s brain by
learning new facts is yet another way to grow the very
part of your brain that is critical for our ability to keep
your memories alive
Six easy tips for brain health
1. Exercise your brain.
2. Put down the smartphone
3. Get more sleep.
4. Eat brain-supportive foods. Garlic, olive oil, salmon,
Nuts (walnuts, cashews, and almonds), Foods high in
resveratrol (which your hippocampus loves!): red grapes,
red wine, peanut butter, cranberries, and blueberries
5. Meditate.
6. Supplement -Ayurvedic herb Brahmi (used to support
a clear, sharp memory)
Plastic surgery
Stress and Hippocampus
Credits :
Wikipedia
Google