The Stressed Brain

Science Signaling  29 Nov 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 201, pp. ec334
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4201ec334

Animal experiments have shown that stressors trigger a neurochemical cascade that leads to the release of stress-related neuromodulators. These modulators change the cognitive state of the brain by altering the connectivity of large-scale neuronal populations. In human test subjects, Hermans et al. compared a neutral paradigm with the effects of an acute stressor on functional brain activity and simultaneous changes in subjective reports of emotionality and physiological measures of neuroendocrine and autonomic activity. Robust stressor-related changes in functional neuronal activity and connectivity within a so-called salience network of brain areas were observed, which correlated with increased reports of negative emotionality by the participants, as well as with increases of cortisol and alpha amylase in their saliva.

E. J. Hermans, H. J. F. van Marle, L. Ossewaarde, M. J. A. G. Henckens, S. Qin, M. T. R. van Kesteren, V. C. Schoots, H. Cousijn, M. Rijpkema, R. Oostenveld, G. Fernández, Stress-related noradrenergic activity prompts large-scale neural network reconfiguration. Science 334, 1151–1153 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]