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the center cannot hold

I finished reading “The center cannot hold” in three consecutive settings. It is an memoir written by a conventionally successful professor on her journey struggling with schizophrenia. I guess it says a…

While chronic stress is bullying the hippocampus

While chronic stress is bullying the hippocampus—pruning its dendrites, killing its neurons, and preventing neurogenesis—the amygdala is having a field day. The stress overload creates more connections in the amygdala, which keeps firing and calling for cortisol, even though there’s plenty of the hormone available, and the negative situation feeds on itself. The more the amygdala fires, the stronger it gets. Eventually the amygdala takes control of its partnership with the hippocampus, repressing the context—and thus the connection to reality—and branding the memory with fear. The stress becomes generalized, and the feeling becomes a free-floating sense of fear that morphs into anxiety. It’s as if everything is a stressor, and this colors perception and leads to even more stress.

hippocampal shrinkage and memory loss

The scientific name for the disorder speaks volumes: hypercortisolism. Its symptoms are eerily similar to those of chronic stress: weight gain around the midsection; breaking down muscle tissue to produce unnecessary glucose and then fat; insulin resistance and possibly diabetes; panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and increased risk of heart disease. One of the many correlations Starkman has shown is that the extent of hippocampal shrinkage and memory loss is directly proportional to elevations in cortisol.

ripple effects of the body’s stress response

This is where the ripple effects of the body’s stress response can lead to full-blown mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure, heart problems, and cancer. Chronic stress can even tear at the architecture of the brain.