08.08.18 How stress affects the brain

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 – We tend to think of stress as an immediate problem: The boss hovering over our desks; the mad dash to the subway at the end of a long day. And in the short-term, stress makes us feel irritable, anxious, tense, distracted and forgetful. But that’s only part of the story.

Over time, elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can chip away at our physical, mental and emotional health. The link between chronic stress and the potential for mental health conditions — such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders — is well-established. But what kind of changes — both fleeting and lasting — are actually taking place in the brain when we experience a stressful event?

Here are four ways stress changes your brain.

Stress could trigger a chemical change that makes you irritable

Many of us know that we’re not pleasant to be around when we’re stressed out — we may get irritable and grumpy. Under pressure, many people get distracted and forgetful and this could be a sign of the destructive effects of stress in the brain.

French researchers discovered an enzyme, when triggered by stress, that attacks a molecule in the hippocampus which is responsible for regulating synapses. When the synapses are modified, fewer neural connections are able to be made in the area.

“These effects lead subjects to lose their sociability, avoid interactions with their peers and have impaired memory or understanding,” a university press release explained.

Chronic stress can shrink your brain

Stressful life events could harm your brain’s memory and learning capacity by reducing the volume of gray matter in brain regions associated with emotions, self-control and physiological functions.

Chronic stress and/or depression can contribute to lost volume in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with emotional and cognitive impairment. Researchers found that this is particularly true of people with a genetic marker that can disrupt the formation of synaptic connections between brain cells.

A 2008 study on mice found that even short-term stress could lead to communication problems among brain cells in regions associated with memory and learning.

One stressful event can kill brain cells

As we learn new information, we constantly generate new neurons in the hippocampus — a brain region associated with learning, memory and emotion. But ongoing stress can halt the production of new neurons in the hippocampus and may also affect the speed of connections between hippocampal cells, according to Scientific American. What’s more, an animal study found that a single stressful event can destroy newly created neurons in the hippocampus.

University of California at Berkeley researchers found that the brain in a state of chronic stress generates more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than a typical brain would, resulting in excess myelin (an insulating layer of protective coating around neurons) in the hippocampus.

“The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress, because of the damaging effects of cortisol,” psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote in Social Intelligence.

Stress can disrupt memory by triggering the brain’s threat response

While cortisol hampers the activity of the hippocampus, it increases the size and activity of the amygdala, the brain’s main center for emotional responses and motivation. The amygdala is responsible for fear processing, threat perception and the fight-or-flight response. Increased activity means we’re in a state of reacting to perceived threat, which can have the effect of restricting our ability to take in new information. It can also heighten emotional reactions.

“After a day when a student gets panicked by a pop quiz, he’ll remember the details of that panic far more than any of the material in the quiz,” Goleman wrote.

Carolyn Gregoire The Huffington Post
I can personally say that what this article is about is so very true.  When I was first diagnosed in 2011 and seeing the doctor regularly in 2012 I was under considerable stress from many directions.  The main thing the doctor told me was to eliminate the stress.  Unfortunately eliminating the stress was out of my control.  This was around the time that Roy and I decided to live full time RVing.  That was the biggest stress reliever imaginable and helped my brain deteriorating to slow down.
Now when I’m under stress my brain truly shuts down.  The best way I can think of to describe it is that there are less things going around in my head.  The things that are there don’t have a connection to either the next step or another thought related to it. I was hopeful when I started writing this that I’d be able to share more.  It’s just not happening.  So I’ll say good bye now.
Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear!

08.10.18 Alzheimer’s and Dementia from the patient’s perspective reblogged from January 2015

August 14, 2018 –  Since I originally wrote this in 2015 I’ve found two very interesting dementia patients who still communicate pretty well.  One, Rick Phelps, started a Facebook group called Memory People. Here is a link to that group: Memory People on Facebook   I’ve shared some of Rick’s writing before and plan to share soon one he just wrote about “anticipatory grief.”

The other dementia patient, Peter Berry, publishes on Facebook a weekly video on different dementia topics and an update on how he is doing. Here is a link to his facebook page: Peter Berry On Facebook

10460724_539323889537944_4082775068952904086_nThis week I want to share about Alzheimer’s from the patient’s standpoint.

“I’m Still Here” is a song about dementia, written from the patient’s point of view. It can be a helpless feeling after you get an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and the support of your loved ones can help ease the stress that this disease causes. Click on the photo below to watch this short video!

i am still here graphic to go with song

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ALZHEIMER’S PATIENT’S PRAYER BY CAROLYN HAYNELI

Pray for me, I was once like you. Be kind and loving to me, that’s how I would have treated you. Remember I was once someone’s parent or spouse. I had a life and a dream for the future.

Speak to me, I can hear you even if I don’t understand what you are saying. Speak to me of things in my past of which I can still relate.

Be considerate of me, my days are such a struggle. Think of my feelings because I still have them and can feel pain. Treat me with respect because I would have treated you that way.

Think of how I was before I got Alzheimer’s. I was full of life, I had a life, laughed and loved you. Think of how I am now, my disease destroyed my thinking, my feelings, and my ability to respond, but I still love you even if I can’t tell you. Think about my future because I used to.

Remember I was full of hope for the future just like you are now. Think how it would be to have things locked in your mind and can’t let them out. I need you to understand and not blame me, but Alzheimer’s. I still need the compassion and the touching and most of all I still need you to love me.

Keep me in your prayers because I am between life and death. The love you give will be a blessing from God and both of us will live forever.

How you live and what you do today will always be remembered in the heart of the Alzheimer’s Patient.

1d-510 REQUESTS1d-5

The following links are to stories from Alzheimer’s patients. Please spend some time reading each one of these stories told in a way that only they can:
|108I just found this blog called Welcome to DementiaLand by Wayne who does have a last name but I couldn’t find it just now.  I don’t know whether it’s my brain issues or his that make navigating his site difficult.  His level of sharing is great though and I felt strongly it should be included here.  

http://dementialand.chewtor.co.uk/#category2

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Interview with Alzheimer sufferer Richard Taylor: ‘You turn into a person you don’t know any more.’

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/interview-with-alzheimer-sufferer-you-turn-into-a-person-you-don-t-know-anymore-a-688049.html

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An author and former physician, Dr. David Hilfiker was diagnosed in 2012 with a progressive mild cognitive impairment. His doctor thought it was Alzheimer’s but additional testing proved this initial diagnosis to be wrong. Now David must learn how to come to terms with the reality of worsening cognitive issues that appear to have no cause.

http://www.agingcare.com/Blogger/David-Hilfiker

108Harry Urban has lived with Alzheimer’s disease for seven years, “We have no typical days. You have your good days, your bad days and your Alzheimer’s days,”

http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/alzheimers-patients-share-their-experiences-153702.htm

1d-5guilt.

The video below  of a five year old singing “Peace in Christ” seemed appropriate to me to share with you today.  As a Christian with dementia, having peace in Christ is what gets me through every day. I hope you enjoy hearing this song!

Until next time,

psalm 26 73

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