Does Stress Affect Your Memory?

Stress Affect Your Memory

Stress can negatively affect a person’s memory. It can interfere with the individual’s capacity to recall memory and retrieve information from the brain. In stressful situations, the body starts secreting hormones within the bloodstream that acute and chronic physiological changes within the brain that can lead to long-term damage. The excess secretion of stress hormones can enhance immediate memories but delay the long-term recall memories. To be specific about which areas of the brain are affected by stress then it mainly includes the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus along amygdala. When a person experiences something then the amygdala is activated which processes emotions, then it activates the hippocampus which processes memories that are encoded and stored. These emotional events then form strong memories that are then retrieved through the prefrontal cortex.

When a person undergoes a stressful situation, the brain starts releasing stress hormones especially glucocorticoids i.e. cortisol that impairs the long-term memory. Cortisol is considered as the stress biomarker. When a person undergoes normal situations, the hippocampus in the brain controls the regulation of cortisol with the help of negative feedback as it has several receptors. However, when in stress, the excess cortisol levels can impair the hippocampus to recall and encode memories. It hinders the hippocampus to receive enough ATP by the conversion of glucose resulting in a negative effect over the memories. Studies show that increased levels of stress hormones can shrink the size of the hippocampus where it reduces the capacity of the hippocampus to encode and then form memories.

Consider watching this video to know how stress shrinks the brain.

Stress can affect memory functions along with the cognitive functions of the brain. A person undergoes different forms of stress which might be extrinsic or intrinsic. Intrinsic stress can result in an acute or chronic effect over the person’s body where it can affect the performance of an individual in terms of memories, learning process and plasticity while in chronic conditions it can harm the brain structure along with the cognition. When a person undergoes chronic stress, his cognitive functioning is affected. Different studies suggest that when a person suffers from chronic stress along with increased cortisol levels then he suffers from dementia especially in older age.

Acute stress, on the other hand, is immediate which cannot result in long-term physiological effects. There are different findings regarding stress and its effect on memory. Some suggest that acute stress results in impaired memory while others conclude that acute stressful situations can result in the enhancement of memory. Many studies indicate that the release of glucocorticoids and stress can result in increased memory formation but they can impair the retrieval of memories.

This relationship between memories and stress is complex. A mild stressful situation can increase your ability to store, encode and retrieve information in your brain while excess stress can shut down the memory storage system. For instance, you are making a presentation and trying to learn details regarding it, you feel slightly anxious but on the other hand, when you are there to perform it you might nervous and unable to recall the facts which you were about to present.

The brain has the ability to transform throughout life. It shows that the effects of stress over the hippocampus can be altered with time. If a person is advised with antidepressants then the levels of serotonin rise and counteract the adverse effects of stressful situations over the hippocampus. With the use of such medicines the size of the hippocampus returns to normal and it starts playing an important role in memory formation.

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!


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