Stress can alter the biology of the brain, and tip a mind into illness
Especially since the explosion in Genome Science and data it has now been proved beyond doubt that, gene expression is highly dependent on what our environment throws at us.
Now, the current challenge is to work out precisely how environment affects our biological tissues and changes us.
Results of these studies are published in Nature Special Issue and it says, “Stress can take many forms, from a backlog of e-mails to the trauma of war. And if stress is particularly acute or prolonged, it can damage the mind, triggering conditions from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now researchers are getting to grips with how stress can alter the biology of the brain, and tip a mind into illness.”
Until now, analysis of the environment has been the domain of social scientists, who have elaborated the correlations between environment and health or behaviour — for example, that a deprived upbringing increases the risk of deviant behaviours in adulthood.
Now, biologists are starting to render visible how one aspect of the environment — stress — leaves marks on the body. It shortens telomeres and alters epigenetics and brain processing — and it is most potent when it occurs during brain development, a surprisingly long period of time stretching from the third trimester of pregnancy to the end of adolescence.
These stress-induced changes increase vulnerability to all sorts of conditions, including psychiatric disorders and antisocial behaviour.
Recent article written by William Deresiewicz and published online in NYtimes on May 12, 2012 with a title “Capitalists And Other Psychopaths” caught my eye. I have prepared a short analysis on it and posted elsewhere on TGI with a title “Health is Mother of All Prosperity.” in which it was mentioned how THE NATURE / THE ENVIRONMENT in which the particular individual leads life influences his/ her actions or behaviour.
Recent article from American Academy of Pediatrics (A. S. Garner et al. Pediatrics 129, e224; 2012) this year published a report on what it calls “toxic stress”, which says that poor, or poorly coping, mothers should be cared for better while pregnant . American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) presented an integrated ecobiodevelopmental framework to assist in translating the dramatic advances in developmental science into improved health across the life span. Pediatricians are now armed with new information about the adverse effects of toxic stress on brain development, as well as a deeper understanding of the early life origins of many adult diseases, the article says. It was also suggested to complement the early identification of developmental concerns with a greater focus on those interventions and community investments that reduce external threats to healthy brain growth.
Adult productivity certainly depends on learning capacities, adaptive behaviors, lifelong physical and mental health of the individual. However, the Health (mental, physical and spiritual) certainly depends on environment and genetic predispositions. Since biologic program is not entirely in our hands the only choice that we can primarily play with is “The Surrounding Environment”.
Meyer-Lindenberg, who published his work last year in Nature (F. Lederbogen et al. Nature 474,498–501; 2011), says, stress in childhood or adolescence can have a lasting effect on the brain’s development and increase susceptibility to psychiatric disease. Further, he is of the opinion that people who grow up in cities process negative emotions such as stress differently from those who move to the city as adults.
Science is indicating that stress damage can occur in the womb, and the guidances must involve sociologists, who are best placed, for example, to balance the potential benefits of increased monitoring against possible infringement of basic freedoms and rights.
Scientists like Daniel Weinberger, director of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in Baltimore, Maryland are now following Meyer-Lindenberg’s lead. It seems he is planning a huge, long-term project to study environmental and genetic risk factors for schizophrenia in China, where urbanization is happening at lightning speed.
My personal Recommendations:
To keep oneself healthy in order to be productive and useful to oneself and to the society at the same time, one has to adopt the following
“Win-Win Health Formula“:
1. identify the environment that is most comfortable and makes you feel healthy and normal.
2. make sure children are not ill treated, physically, mentally and emotionally, under any circumstances. They are the future of the family, and the nation and the world.
2. Though you love the place you live in so much, prepare at least 2-3 trips a year out of that area to refresh the system.
3. do not let any adverse events or people take over your life – resolve them immediately preferably through a community based troubleshooting system.
3. maintain good and healthy food habits.
4. do not skip regular exercises – primarily the breathing exercises.
4. keep your neighborhood clean and green – adopt community based regular clean up programs.
5. adopt healthy policies like recycling all kinds of garbage in your area
6. Work with all authorities to keep all the commodities at an affordable price to All – it does matter a lot – may be it is the some thing that should be rooted out in the first place….”The Money Stress” may be the “Mother of all Diseases.”
7. 40 hours/week and 5 day/week work culture should be the mantra to refresh the system and improve the efficiency at all levels. All organizations across the continents should implement this with long term interest in the Health of the organization and the individuals.
While “Health is Mother of All Prosperity”, “Struggle” (for Existence) / “Money is the Mother of all Diseases.” Therefore improving our level of understanding on the following seems to be inevitable.
– how the environment affects the health of an individual in different life situations.
– what imaging technologies can be adopted/ further developed to identify the changes to prevent further damage.
– identification of biomarkers (that address stress, struggle, greed) to identify and save the individuals.
– how to correct the already affected individuals and bring back to normal society and life.
– last but not least, develop tailored pharmaceutical solutions while simultaneously adopting the non-pharmaceutical solutions in order to speed up the recovery and to prevent the recurrence.
This post was curated by incorporating some personal thoughts and therefore all comments are not necessarily of the authors of the original article.
- Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative US SamplePediatrics 2012; 130:2 184-192, Abstract, Full Text, Full Text (PDF)
- True cost of child abuse can’t be measured in dollars and cents AAP News 2012; 33:4 12, Full Text, Full Text (PDF)
Epigenetics: Stress makes its molecular mark, 10 October 2012
Telomeres and adversity: Too toxic to ignore, 10 October 2012
Sleep science: Broken dreams, 10 October 2012
- Psychiatry: The dispossessed, 10 October 2012
- A radical approach to mental illness, 06 September 2011
- City living marks the brain, 22 June 2011
- Schizophrenia: The drug deadlock, 10 November 2010
- Schizophrenia special
- Neuropsychiatric-disease supplement