Archive for category Stress hormone

Stress Hormones Impede Healthy Behavioral Change


Stress Hormones Impede Healthy Behavioral ChangeFor many people, stress is the factor that unravels diets, exercise plans and other goal-directed tasks.

European researchers believe they have discovered why stressed persons are more likely to lapse back into old habits rather than follow a goal-directed agenda.

In a study, investigators determined stress hormones shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behavior, yet do not affect the brain regions responsible for habitual behavior.

Researchers from the Ruhr-Universität in Germany, together with colleagues from the University Hospital Bergmannsheil, mimicked a stress situation in the body using drugs. They then examined the brain activity using functional MRI scanning.

The scientists found that the interaction of the stress hormones hydrocortisone and noradrenaline shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behavior. Yet the brain regions responsible for habitual behavior remained unaffected.

During the research on different stress hormones, the cognitive psychologists used three substances: a placebo, the stress hormone hydrocortisone and yohimbine. Yohimbine is a product which ensures that the stress hormone noradrenaline stays active longer.

Some study participants received hydrocortisone alone or just yohimbine, while other participants received both substances. A fourth group was administered a placebo. Altogether, 69 volunteers participated in the study.

During the experiment, all participants, both male and female, learned that they would receive cocoa or orange juice as a reward if they chose certain symbols on the computer.

After this learning phase, volunteers were allowed to eat as many oranges or as much chocolate pudding as they liked. “This procedure weakens the value of the reward,” said Lars Schwabe, Ph.D.

“Whoever eats chocolate pudding will lose the attraction to cocoa. Whoever is satiated with oranges, has less appetite for orange juice.”

In this context, goal-directed behavior means: Whoever has previously eaten the chocolate pudding chooses the symbols leading to cocoa reward less frequently. Whoever is satiated with oranges selects less frequently the symbols associated with orange juice.

The findings show that only the combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone attenuates or satisfies goal-directed behavior.

As expected, volunteers who took yohimbine and hydrocortisone did not behave in a goal-directed manner but according to habit. In other words, satiation with oranges or chocolate pudding had no effect.

Persons who had taken a placebo or only one medication, on the other hand, behaved goal-directed and showed a satiating effect.

The brain data revealed: The combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone reduced the activity in the forebrain – in the so-called orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortex.

Researchers say that these areas have been previously associated with goal-directed behavior. The brain regions which are important for habitual learning, on the other hand, were similarly active for all volunteers.

Source: Ruhr-University Bochum

Brain abstract photo by shutterstock.

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Bullying is Bad for Your Health


Health

Health (Photo credit: Tax Credits)


Bullying is Bad for Your Health

By KATHERINE PRUDENTE, LCAT, RDT

We all know bullying is unhealthy for one’s emotional well-being, but a new study from Sweden shares its findings on how bullying from adolescence can affect one’s physical health into middle age.

Researchers have discovered that teenagers who are ostracized at school are more likely to be at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes when they enter middle age.

They are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as being at greater risk of developing diabetes by their early 40s.

Furthermore, the study found that girls were much more susceptible to the health risks associated with bullying.

In light of the new research, it’s evident that our emotional well-being is closely linked to our overall health – a mind-body connection. Why is there a correlation between bullying and physical health?

We know that bullying causes mental anguish, thus body’s stress response system – the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone” – kicks in to protect us from danger. The body does not distinguish between physical danger vs. emotional danger; it just knows that the person is in a state of anxiety.

When we consider the bullying dynamic – a repeated interpersonal dynamic characterized by intentional harm and a power difference – a victim’s stress response system is working in overdrive. Victims worry about how to get from class to class without getting shoved, taunted and humiliated.  These young people develop in a constant state of stress and thus acclimating to a high stress livelihood.The body’s heightened stress response becomes the new normal.

In addition, we need to help our young people to develop healthier means to manage their feelings.  If we don’t they are more likely to engage in behaviors that are unhealthy to manage – either bullying others, using food as a means to self-soothe, self-harming or isolating themselves. All of which can lead to the health concerns delineated in the study.

We live and develop in the context of relationships. It’s evident that we have to help our young people foster healthy relationships, not only for their mental health, but physical as well.

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