Secret to Stress Revealed In Mice?

By Brad Kloza | 

It's as much a part of the holidays as presents and food.

We're talking about stress, and scientists have been investigating what stress is doing to your brain.

As Brad Kloza explains, it may make us forgetful or indecisive.

Stress at work, stress at home.

Now scientists studying mice are discovering all that stress can make us forget things or lead to other mental lapses.

Mice are good, but reluctant swimmers and can easily remember the location of a subsurface platform.

But after hearing a series of stressful sounds the mice have a harder time remembering.

The University of Washington's Jeansok Kim has learned how stress affects the brain's ability to process information.

He did that by listening to the hippocampus, part of the brain involved in learning and memory.

"Think of it as putting a miniature microphone into the hippocampus and as the animal is navigating you are listening to the cells," stated Jeansok Kim, of the University of Washington.

He found that the same brain cells fired when the mouse identified a location, and returned to it.

But when the mouse was stressed--

"Following stress, the cells that fired in a particular location still fired at the same location, but tended to fire at a different frequency," explained Kim.

As he wrote in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," Kim also found that stress slowed the brain's ability to connect brain cells that form memories, and more.

"It's not just memory, but how the memory is used for other higher cognitive functions such as decision making," added Kim.

It's research that gives us an idea of what's going on when we are trying to keep our heads above water.

Kim says the stressed mice also had lower levels of a protein that's important in forming the connections between brain cells.

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