Stress alters brain and is contagious, says study

A new study now concludes that stress can rub off on others.
According to trials, it is suggested that being around stressed people can alter the brain in the same way as when one is overloaded at work.
Canadian scientists who conducted the study called the results ‘remarkable.’
They scientists who conducted the experiment on rats further add that the results could prove true for humans, who can communicate their stress ‘without knowing it’.
University of Calgary researchers, led by Dr Toni-Lee Sterley, studied the effects of stress in pairs of male or female mice.
The researchers removed one mouse from each pair and exposed it to a mild stress before returning it to its partner.
They then examined the responses of a specific cells, CRH neurons, which control the brain’s response to stress, in each mouse.
Networks in the brains of both the stressed mouse and their partner were altered in the same way, tests revealed.
Speaking about it Dr Sterley sais that CRH neurons from the partners, who were not themselves exposed to an actual stress, showed changes that were identical to those we measured in the stressed mice.
Co-author Professor Jaideep Bains further added that readily communicate stress to others, sometimes without even knowing it.
He further said, “There is even evidence that some symptoms of stress can persist in family and loved ones of individuals who suffer from PTSD.”
Scientists further analysed the mice by engineering the neurons so that they could either turn them on or off with light.
When the team silenced these neurons during stress, they prevented changes in the brain that would normally take place after stress. Furthermore, when they silenced the neurons in the partner during its interaction with a stressed individual, the stress did not transfer to the partner.
On activation of these neurons, however, even in the absence of stress, their brains were changed just as they would be after a real stress.
The team discovered that the activation of these CRH neurons causes the release of a chemical signal, an ‘alarm pheromone’, from the mouse that alerts the partner.