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Is brain shrinkage related to stress?

Q: A few days ago I came across a website that mentioned about brain shrinkage related to stress and other age related factors. I was under great stress and a lot of tension three years ago. I am upset with the article and want to know whether the stress I had in the past has an effect on my brain. Has my brain shrunk? Are there any ways to make brain normal again? What will be effects of brain shrinkage on my studies, as I wish to go ahead with my higher studies?

A:It is indeed a very apt query. I would think the query raises quite a few questions pertaining to various topics.

Of course one of them is the effect of stress on brain and has the kind of stress that you have experienced in the past affected your brain cells at all.

Further the issues raised are: the accuracy of information on the world wide web, the generalisation of research findings to the general population, and the further limitations to certain kinds of research.

Well let us look at this from the other end. The world wide web is a boon and as well a bane. There is a free flow of information which has enhanced its value, but then the accuracy of the information cannot sometimes be commented upon as a particular website may just be the brain child of 1 individual who might have a particular viewpoint which has not been proved by scientific methods.

For e.g. there are equal number of websites and people who may claim that mental illness does not exist.

Usually biological research is initially conducted on animals like rats etc and then in human population and thereafter based on the strengths of data, can the research findings be generalised. However, still in the field of Psychiatry and brain sciences absolute generalisable truths may not hold firm ground at times.

Now with the question about stress: Yes, there are a few research articles - with research primarily on rats that persistent and prolonged stress may affect certain areas of the brain as hippocampus.

So, to apply these findings on to yourself: Did you have prolonged and persistent stress. (The definition of prolonged and persistent may need to be looked at). How did the stress affect you then? How has it affected you now? Has it come in the way of anything, etc. etc?

However, I suppose it is possible that you have been stressed by this article unduly and it has started the vicious worry cycle. It might be that you are prone to worry unusually and that increases your stress levels.

I would suggest if there were some merit in any of the last few assumptions - it would be useful for you to look at some relaxation techniques with the assistance of a psychologist.

This would also assist you to progress your career goals.

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