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Researchers Create Animal Stress Model


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Excerpted from Sciencedaily.com, 9/4/08

In an effort to better understand how chronic stress affects the human body, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, have created an animal model that shows how chronic stress affects behavior, physiology and reproduction.

According to lead researcher Mark Wilson, PhD, chief of the Division of Psychobiology at Yerkes, “Chronic stress can lead to a number of behavioral changes and physical health problems, including anxiety, depression and infertility.”

Via the animal model, the researchers found corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) is a key neurohormone involved in stress response. Wilson explains, “CRF is located in several different brain regions, serving different functions. Its release is important for our ability to adapt to every day stressors and to maintain our physical and emotional health.”

In response to stress, CRF levels rise; CRF levels decrease when the stressor no longer is present. Chronic stress, however, increases the length and volume of expression of CRF in areas of the brain associated with fear and emotion, including the amygdala. Such chronic stress changes the body’s response, and the resulting increased expression of CRF is thought to be the cause of such health-related stress problems including anxiety, depression and infertility.

Intuitively most people know that chronic stress wreaks havoc on their health. But until quite recently, most physicians and researchers denied such a connection between stress and disease existed at all. Thankfully, that time has passed.

The new scientific discipline of “psychoneuroimmunology”, or PNI, is illuminating the mechanisms behind the stress-disease connection and revealing just how damaging chronic stress is to our health.

Stress has been shown to be a risk factor in almost every serious disease that plagues human beings, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression. Stress management techniques should be a consistent, regular aspect of your preventative medicine program.

Stay tuned for some of the techniques and practices I’ve found to be most helpful.

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