The first direct evidence that stress can shrink a crucial part of the human brain is being compiled by scientists using new, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, according to a Stanford expert on stress and the brain.
In a review article in the Aug. 9 edition of the journal Science, biological sciences Professor Robert Sapolsky said that the work of several research groups shows links between long-term stressful life experiences, long-term exposure to hormones produced during stress, and shrinking of the part of the brain involved in some types of memory and learning.
Sapolsky studies the effects of stress and stress hormones on wild baboons in Africa and on rats in his Stanford laboratory. He is the author of a popular book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, on the physiology of the stress response. He said that for 20 years, he and other stress physiologists have wished for a direct way to study the effects of stress on the human brain.
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