A group of researchers at the University of Bonn explored how stress affects the brain and creates motor disabilities and learning deficits. The study is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
To understand how stress affects the brain, the researchers examined mice living under stressful and non-stressful conditions for a few days. They used a special microscopy method to capture pictures of the cerebral cortex of the rodents’ brains or the brain areas associated with learning new movements and motor control. They also examined the fluid around the brain and spinal cord to study circulating stress-induced proteins that cause neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.
The results showed that the brains of the stressed mice lost some of their synaptic connections. The stress also affected movement centers in the brain, causing motor deficits and learning disorders. However, because the sensitivity to stress varied in mice, some of the mice grew resilient to stress. In these resilient animals, unlike their stress-sensitive peers, the affected neurons recovered in a span of weeks. The condition of their recovered neurons was similar to that of non-stressed mice.
Drawing An Inference
The researchers attribute the loss of synapses—in both stressed people and mice—to the microglia immune cells which are triggered by stress to attack the contact sites and not defective cells or pathogens. They also inferred that psychological stress can have a long-lasting impact on the degradation of neurons, paving the way for more severe stress-related diseases in later years. These include depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the lead researchers, Dr. Gellner, elaborated: “Accordingly, long-term stress—to which children are increasingly exposed—can potentially cause serious damage to the brain.”
To Know More You May Refer To
Gellner, AK., Sitter, A., Rackiewicz, M. et al. Stress vulnerability shapes disruption of motor cortical neuroplasticity. Transl Psychiatry 12, 91 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-022-01855-8