Lecture – The Brain on Stress

Tomorrow, Bruce McEwen, Alfred E. Mirsky Professor of Neuroscience, Rockefeller University, will present “The Brain on Stress: How the Social Environment ‘Gets Under the Skin’”.

Stress is a state of the mind and body that differs among individuals and reflects not only major life events but also the conflicts and pressures of daily life that alter physiological systems so as to produce a chronic stress burden that, in turn, is a factor in the expression of disease.  This burden reflects not only the impact of life experiences but also of genetic variations; individual health behaviors such as diet, physical activity, sleep and substance abuse; and it also reflects stable epigenetic modifications in development that set life-long patterns of physiological reactivity and behavior through both biological embedding of early environments interacting with cumulative change from experiences over the lifespan.   Hormones associated with the chronic stress burden protect the body in the short-run and promote adaptation (allostasis),  but, in the long run, the burden of chronic stress causes changes in the brain and body that can lead to disease (allostatic load and overload).  Brain circuits are plastic and remodeled by stress so as to change the balance between anxiety, mood control, memory and decision making.  Such changes may have adaptive value in particular contexts but their persistence and lack of reversibility can be maladaptive.   Yet, the capacity of brain plasticity in adult life has only begun to be explored, along with the efficacy of “top down” strategies for helping the brain change itself, sometimes aided by pharmaceutical agents and other treatments.

  • Date:  10 April
  • Time:  4 – 5:30
  • Location:  1655 Crossroads SPH 1

To see videos of previous lectures in this series, please visit http://www.sph.umich.edu/rwjhssp/events/

Sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars and the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health.

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