Stressed out? Fear not: small doses might be good for your stem cells

Image courtesy of bottled_void

OK, so the news still isn’t good for those of us living with constant, grinding stress of work, kids and household responsibilities. Such stress can cause the body to release hormones responsible for heart disease and depression, and squelches the production of new neurons in the brain, impairing memory.

But new research out of University of California Berkeley suggests that short-term stress can actually boost the brain’s stem cells, prompting them to divide and improving memory in lab animals. One of the authors on this paper, Laural Barchus, is no stranger to stress. She helped CIRM develop our high school education curriculum while also carrying out her PhD research.

Here’s a link to Berkeley’s press release about this work, which was published in new open access online journal eLife. In it, senior researcher Daniela Kaufer says:

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert.”

Here’s hoping Laurel’s work with us created stress of only the intermittent variety that will help her in her studies.

A.A.

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