New Study Finds Stress Could Shrink Your Brainadmin
Stress, particularly chronic stress, can have any number of biological effects; from cardiovascular and respiratory issues, to negative impacts on the nervous and reproductive systems, stresses impact on the human body has been continuously studied and documented.
A new study, however, recently published in Neurology, has found that higher levels of cortisol – a hormone linked to stress – is associated with smaller brain volumes and poorer performances on memory and cognitive tests.
The team that conducted the study collected cognitive data from 2,231 participants who were in their 40s and 50s. 2,018 underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain volume. Researchers also took into account the participants’ age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and whether or not the participants were smokers. Ultimately, the study concluded that “higher serum cortisol was associated with lower brain volumes and impaired memory in asymptomatic younger to middle-aged adults, with the association being evident particularly in women” (Neurology).
“Cortisol affects many different functions, so it is important to fully investigate how high levels of the hormone may affect the brain,” study lead author Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical Schoolsaid. “While other studies have examined cortisol and memory, we believe our community-based study is the first to explore, in middle-aged people, fasting blood cortisol levels and brain volume, as well as memory and thinking skills.”