Stress and the Brain

In sharing this, I risk over-simplifying something I learned from the book “The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves” by Eric Kandel. As a side note, it is a fascinating book for anyone interested in how the mind works.

Here is the part that I still remember over a year later, in lay terms: On-going stress and depression have virtually the same physical effect on the neurology of the brain. This effect is somewhat cyclical, as the changes in neurological connections lead to patterns of thinking and experience that result in growing depression and reinforce the neurological effects.

In order to correct these patterns once they are developed, the most effective treatment is both medical intervention to interrupt the physical effects and training to change the way the brain works.

The treatments do not work as well alone. Without addressing the physical changes in the brain, retraining thinking is less effective, if it works at all. Without the brain training, the medical intervention doesn’t change the brain, so the same problems remain as soon as any medical treatment discontinues.

An analogy: There is a road full of potholes. Because of the potholes, the road is not as useful as it was made to be. A road crew could come out and work on the road, but if people are driving on it while they are working, the road will not be smooth. But just closing off the road will not change the potholes. In order to fix the problem properly, the road crew needs to close the road down, and resurface the road.

Now, why on earth would I bring this up a year after I read it?

I doubt I am the only one who has experienced stress recently. How is your brain doing?

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