How does stress affect the brain?

Written by: Dr. Francisco José Hernández Ramos
Edited by: Ester Izquierdo Romagosa

When we come towards the end of the year, we are in a time when we take stock of the year usually we have lived and analyze if we have done what we planned and whether or not the previously scheduled. On the other hand, is a phase of the year in which there are parties and gatherings with dear people and unloved. It is also time in which economic analysis is done, it is usually valued if we make ends meet, since it involves greater financial outlay than at other times of the year, and more frequently also assesses the employment situation. All this determines that we are facing an era of greater concern and this can cause stress.


What is stress?

Stress is a physiological condition that occurs to environmental and body stimuli, including psychological. Assumes an alert situation arising evolutionarily, first in situations of danger, and that as it develops and increasing brain volume (mainly the premotor cortex), stressful situations are also incorporated to psychological stimuli. This determines a body imbalance that is trying to balance by homeostasis (ability to maintain a stable condition).

Stress can be acute or chronic. Acute stress is characterized by an increased secretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline and subsequently cortisol, which makes us to increase blood pressure, heart rate, determining an increased metabolism, decreasing the immune response by increasing the inflammatory response and availability glucose and hormonal balance. This creates a "brain alert", mainly due to increased cortisol and the inflammatory response and therefore free radicals, which has an effect in the hippocampus and cerebral connections.

The stress response can be of two types:


  • Assertive: there is a balance between emotional rational processes (prefrontal) and, depending on the latter of the amygdala, located in the anteromedial temporal lobe and fundamentally influences memory structure. This balance determines us our response to decisions in the short and long term.
  • Emotional: with increased pathological emotion, which act more instinctively. This may determine to increase anxiety and depression and that emotional responses to prevail over rational, we increase impulsivity, anxiety and secondarily decreases attention and immediate memory.


Does stress can lead to a neurological disease?

As mentioned earlier, acute and chronic stress depend on the release of cortisol. In the acute phase, increase heart rate, lung capacity to take in oxygen and decrease the immune response; if it is more chronic, plays a more important role the inflammatory response that influences systemic oxidative stress.

Stress depends on the balance between the reactive oxygen species and nitrogen and the ability to neutralize them with antioxidants, both endogenous and exogenous, that depend on the diet and can also be influenced by the use of drugs.

A brain, stress can affect Morphological and metabolism of the brain, which affects neurotransmitters in the synapses involved modifying brain plasticity and regenerative capacity of our brain. This can determine what problems occur as nerve damage, decreased brain volume, alterations of cerebral blood flow, which can determine the generation or worsening of disease neurological. It also represents a decrease in the release of endorphins, a compound with neuroendocrine performance that gives us sense of wellbeing.

Thus, it has been shown that stress can influence the onset of neurological diseases, among which are:


  • Migraine or migraine attacks
  • Chronic tension headache in their episodic slopes and
  • seizures
  • Ictus
  • neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Caregiver syndrome
  • Diseases field of mental health (anxiety, depression, anxiety etc.)


How can you manage stress?

It should be noted that stress management can depend on us or be oblivious. For example, a person with economic difficulties, social exclusion or an immigrant, improve your stress level as improve their social conditions. As for what depends on us, we recommend taking the following measures:


  • healthy and balanced diet (as an example the Mediterranean diet)
  • Regular exercise (sport adjusted to our needs)
  • To rest well
  • Lead a healthy life
  • Being aware of the situation and organize
  • Dedicate time to yourself
  • Artistic activities
  • Perform those activities that we crave and in other situations we can not make
*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection
Dr. Francisco José Hernández Ramos

By Dr. Francisco José Hernández Ramos

Dr. Francisco José Hernández Ramos takes more than 15 years dedicated to the practice of medicine, specializing in neurology. Currently, it offers consultations in private institutions among which is an inquiry in Alcalá del Río (Sevilla). His long experience and professional and academic achievements earned it a prestigious and professional level.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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