Chronically Stressed-Out Brains Show Specific Changes

upset woman with newspaperIs stress a chronic issue in your life? This may be contributing to significant alterations in the mushy stuff in your skull known as the brain. Scientists have long witnessed changes in the brain associated with long-term or posttraumatic stress, but only recently have they begun to understand these changes.

According to a media relations report, a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), identified an influx of “myelin-producing cells” and decrease in neurons appearing in response to chronic stress; the excess myelin in turn leads to an increase in the brain’s “white matter,” which can cause communication malfunctioning along neural pathways (Sanders, 2014).

They focused their experiments on the hippocampus, which is responsible for regulating memory and emotions. The observed changes in white matter in this region of the brain that is already known to influence issues surrounding mood stability—and therefore, mental health—suggest that further research may provide insight into how stress-related brain abnormalities impact the development of a range of mental health conditions.

And while finding ways to de-stress is a good, health-promoting endeavor, keep in mind that a reasonable amount of stress can be beneficial. Instead of slowing you down and interfering with brain functioning, in some cases stress may act as a motivating force to kick your brain’s cognitive functions into higher gear. The key to this type of stress is that it is acute rather than chronic, according to another team of researchers at UC Berkeley (Sanders, 2013).

So long as the stress is temporary, people can use it to fuel increased productivity in their lives.


  1. Sanders, R. (2013, April 16). Researchers find out why some stress is good for you. UC Berkeley, Media Relations. Retrieved from
  2. Sanders, R. (2014, February 11). New evidence that chronic stress predisposes brain to mental illness. UC Berkeley, Media Relations. Retrieved from

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  • gary


    February 27th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    any research into whether the changes are reversible once the stress is gone or you discover better ways to deal with it?

  • Elaine S

    Elaine S

    February 27th, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Although I am one to talk as I am one of the most stressed people that I know, it can also wreck havoc on your body as well as the mind. I used to be so laid back and carefree until I took my most recent job, and it is a job that alsong with it comes a lot of responsibility which for me means a Lot of stress. I knew this going in, I didn’t make the decision blindly but I also felt that this was my fast way to move up the ladder and do something significant. It has been and I suppose from a financial standpoint it has paid off. I am making more now than I guess I thought I ever would. But at what price? I have no life outside of work, not really, and my focus is always on work, never me. I want to think that this is alright and that one day it will pay off, but I am starting to doubt myself, that I have made the right choices. And guess what that leaves me with? More stress!

  • jazzee


    March 3rd, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    ENVIRONMENT matters! Everyone blames mood problems on genetics. But this study shows that stress, AKA environment, plays a role!!! Don’t show this study to big pharma

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