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Our Brain on Stress

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An overview of the physiology and neurobiology connected to acute and chronic stress. Intended audience is for those who work with farming families who are dealing with stress and critical decision making. For more information, see: www.agsafety.info

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Our Brain on Stress

  1. 1. Our Brain on Stress John Shutske, Professor Extension Specialist Agricultural Health & Safety for Farmers and Farm Families
  2. 2. Objectives 1. Review and explain the brain science connected to how people experience acute stress. 2. Describe how acute stress evolves toward chronic stress and three specific outcomes of chronic stress exposure. 3. Explain three specific stress coping mechanisms that positively change our brains and bodies, alleviating stress effects including those which can be recommended or facilitated by agricultural professionals and service providers. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/science/your- amazing-brain/#brain.jpg
  3. 3. A reflection… • Not new content • Most ASH professionals have had exposure to fundamental stress response • On a scale from 1 (very low familiarity) to 5 (very high familiarity) how much do you know about the “stress response” that occurs in our body?
  4. 4. Several additional items forthcoming… www.agsafety.info
  5. 5. A reflection… • Our approach these last few months has been to engage ag service providers and helping professionals. • Pragmatic explanation of biological, physiological, neurochemical processes and how we might harness that info in our helping role.
  6. 6. Creative Commons photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rept0n1x
  7. 7. Let’s Take 10 awkward seconds… One Thing That’s Stressed You Out in the Last Few Weeks?
  8. 8. Original work from Jessica Malisch and Theodore Garland - Wikipeda
  9. 9. Cortisol (plus Adrenaline) • Fight • Flight • Freeze https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response - Image Creative Commons
  10. 10. Biochemical Response • Heart Rate • Blood pressure • Red blood cell count • Blood sugar • Pupils dilate • Digestive system • Reproductive system • Fear center stimulated • Fear/emotional memories cemented • Higher level thinking becomes difficult**
  11. 11. Is the HPA Axis Response Good or Bad? Good? Bad? Or, it depends?
  12. 12. We need stress… The gazelle needed stress Stress helped us as children to get from third to fourth grade Stress in marriage, children, jobs, growing older (and being young)
  13. 13. Case Study
  14. 14. Case Study • In our case study – You see stress impacts on ALL family members. • Obvious impacts – health, injury, anxiety, depression. • But, there are also quiet impacts – on the elderly patriarch of the family, on Jan, and on Jessica who works off the farm and is expecting twins late this winter.
  15. 15. Shift Gears a bit… In the case, you also see the impacts of LONG TERM, chronic stress
  16. 16. • Point number 1 Photo credit – slide is adapted from original by http://www.enricobanchi.com/ Prefrontal Cortex
  17. 17. Original work from Jessica Malisch and Theodore Garland - Wikipeda
  18. 18. Lupien S.J., McEwen B.S., Gunnar M.R. & Heim C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behavior, and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10(6):434- 45.
  19. 19. Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle https://pixabay.com/en/rain-man-person-human-male-face-785245/ - labeled as public domain
  20. 20. Seven Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle • Physical health effects
  21. 21. Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License 2006
  22. 22. https://pixabay.com/en/immune-system-defense-infection-1359197/ - public domain
  23. 23. https://pixabay.com/en/diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-528678/ - labeled as public domain
  24. 24. Seven Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle • Physical health effects • Impact on Decision Making, Distraction, and Memory • Fear and anxiety
  25. 25. Cortisol…. A. Inhibits function of the PFC B. Causes amygdala tissue to grow stronger C. Shrinks size and reduces connections in hippocampus D. All of the above
  26. 26. • Point number 1 http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v15/n5/fig_tab/nn.3093_F1.html
  27. 27. Seven Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle • Physical health effects • Impact on Decision Making, Distraction, and Memory • Fear and anxiety • Learning, Adaptation, Resilience
  28. 28. Amy F. T. Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signaling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10(6): 410–422.
  29. 29. Amy F. T. Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signaling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10(6): 410–422.
  30. 30. Seven Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle • Physical health effects • Impact on Decision Making, Distraction, and Memory • Fear and anxiety • Learning, Adaptation, Resilience • Addiction Behaviors & Risk
  31. 31. Seven Impacts – Chronic Stress • Chronic stress as a vicious cycle • Physical health effects • Impact on Decision Making, Distraction, and Memory • Fear and anxiety • Learning, Adaptation, Resilience • Addiction Behaviors & Risk • Communication & Support Impacts
  32. 32. https://pixabay.com/en/father-son-family-1383159/ - labeled as public domain
  33. 33. Some Other Key Factors Image adapted from presentation - http://www.slideshare.net/kimappel/psy-150-403-chapter-11-slides
  34. 34. Let’s simplify this a bit…  In hundreds of experiments (including lots of variations)…  Two groups of rats can be subjected to a really terrible stimulus – like a painful electrical shock  If one group has the ability to exert SOME control -- like shutting off the shock once it’s started….  They will show effects similar to a control group that has no painful stimulus – in other words, the stimulus is not as stressful  The rats experiencing the same pain, but with no means to control will waste away
  35. 35. Helping people regain a sense of control
  36. 36. Previous slide reference… Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677.
  37. 37. McGonigal’s Summaries • Also in book “The Upside of Stress” (2015) • Do not fear stress response • It’s a call to action • It should call for us to reach out, build relationships, and personal networks with family, loved ones, and community
  38. 38. Exercise • It’s kind of a big deal! • Release of natural endorphins • Strengthen circulatory, respiratory, brain function, immune system • Positive cortisol effects (receptors, size of hippocampus, positive effects on PFC) • Brain oxygen, nourishment (20% of energy)
  39. 39. (A) Example of hippocampus segmentation and graphs demonstrating an increase in hippocampus volume for the aerobic exercise group and a decrease in volume for the stretching control group. Kirk I. Erickson et al. PNAS 2011;108:3017-3022 ©2011 by National Academy of Sciences
  40. 40. Meditation & Mindfulness • Grow, strengthen and thicken hippocampus • Diminish influence of the amygdala • Oxygen, breathing • Focus on here and now increases sense of control • Likely an area of new research
  41. 41. Photo Creative Commons from https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest/
  42. 42. Counseling – Third Party Help • Provide perspective and moderate emotional conversations. • Reinforce positive behavioral and lifestyle changes. • Accountability and follow-through. • Our DATCP offers vouchers for support.
  43. 43. Some Comments and Specific Thoughts on Your Role
  44. 44. Conclusion… • Stress is complicated. But, not really (helping people fix things IS complex) • Acute stress is a necessary part of life • Acute stress can and does evolve toward chronic stress • Chronic stress can really alter the brain – impacts are reversible, but health is crucial • There are at least seven impacts – and they can “pile on” to each other • Helping people help themselves takes patience, time, and a multitude of approaches • Part of the impact of stress is our VIEW of how it effects our lives. That framing is critical for people’s health. CONTROL and helping people regain a sense of positive control is really critical!

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