Studies have shown that stress increases excitatory neurotransmitters to a region of the brain, the hippocampus, causing it to shrink. Below, I discuss the concept of stress and the brain by highlighting some recent articles.
The first article demonstrates how stress and mood imbalances can contribute to an increased risk of dementia in later life. Furthermore, the common ways our culture deals with stress, such as overeating and alcohol, also compromises our brain health. Therefore, the best stress busters are tried and true. Things such as mindfulness meditation (article 2) and exercise can greatly boost brain function and have heart healthy benefits.
In fact, according to the American Heart Association:
Current brain research supports the need for movement in the learning process. Here are just a few ways that jumping rope may help prepare the brain for learning.
Raising heart rate gets more blood to the brain, feeding it needed nutrients and oxygen for heightened alertness and mental focus.
Aerobic exercise grows new brain cells in rodents, and promising research suggests that may also apply to humans. (See this bonus link on jumping rope and heart/brain health).
And, if meditation intimidates you, I have good news….read on to see how you don’t have to be “good” meditator to receive brain-boosting benefits!
Stress and the brain (Health Discovery)
Long-term stress, anxiety and depression have been linked with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some research suggests that long-term stress stimulates the growth of the proteins that might cause Alzheimer’s. And that can lead to memory loss.
It also appears that the impact of stress on people’s brain health is affected by other behaviors that can also harm the brain. Overeating, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are among the informal stress management approaches people employ, but all of them increase the risk of damage to the brain in the form of a stroke.
Meditation Approves Cognition-In 4 Days!! (Medical News Today)
Though it sounds almost like an advertisement for a “miracle” weight-loss product, new research now suggests that the mind may be easier to cognitively train than we previously believed. Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.
“In the behavioral test results, what we are seeing is something that is somewhat comparable to results that have been documented after far more extensive training,” said Fadel Zeidan, a post-doctoral researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and a former doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where the research was conducted.
“Simply stated, the profound improvements that we found after just 4 days of meditation training are really surprising,” Zeidan noted. “It goes to show that the mind is, in fact, easily changeable and highly influenced, especially by meditation.”
The research will also be presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in Montreal, April 17-20.