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Take a chill pill, doctor’s orders: Study says stress can lead to brain shrinkage, memory loss

Nov 2, 2018

Hippocampal neuron in culture. Dendrites are green, dendritic spines are red and DNA in cells nucleus is blue.

Hippocampal neuron in culture. Dendrites are green, dendritic spines are red and DNA in cells nucleus is blue.; Credit: Science Source/Getty Images

AirTalk®

If you need another reminder to chill out and take it easy, here it is.

According to a study published this week in the medical journal “Neurology,” higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol before the age of 50, can lead to memory loss and brain shrinkage. Cortisol is key in the body’s fight or flight response, and it puts the body on high alert by turning off body functions that might be an obstacle to survival. That means long periods of stress can mean bad news for the brain. People who had high cortisol levels in the study also had smaller cerebrums, as well as damage in part of their brains that serve as a highway for information.

We dive into the study with its author, Dr. Sudha Seshadri and Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Guests:

Sudha Seshadri, M.D., author of the study “Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures” which was published in the medical journal “Neurology”; she is a professor of neurology and the founding director of the  Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio; she tweets @sudha_md

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, a voluntary health association  

This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at SCPR.org.

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