To Your Health
December, 2018 (Vol. 12, Issue 12)
Can Stress Shrink Your Brain?
By Editorial Staff
Is it better to have a bigger brain vs. a smaller brain? The jury is still out, although some research suggests a bigger brain might give you a slight edge in intelligence, although size is by no means the sole variable to consider.
However, one thing's for certain: a shrinking
brain is something to worry about; which leads us to an intriguing study published in Neurology
that evaluated the impact of stress on brain health.
People who live high-stress lives often have chronically high levels of cortisol, the so-called "stress hormone." According to researchers, high cortisol levels can lead to memory loss and brain shrinkage – and not just when you're old and gray. The study, which evaluated more than 2,000 men and women (average age: 48) with no history of dementia, revealed that high-stress individuals (with high cortisol levels as a consequence) performed worse on memory tests compared to individuals with normal cortisol levels.
Brain MRI scans also revealed high-stress subjects had more brain structural damage to the corona radiata and corpus callosum – areas of the brain that transmit information within the brain and between the two hemispheres, respectively – and a lower percentage of total brain volume compared to normal-stress subjects.