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Stress and the brain

I was able to catch part of a special on NPR this evening, “Gray Matters: Stress and the Brain”. Here is a summary from the WCPN website:

“This one-hour documentary highlights new research on how increasingly clear it is that the brain and body are inextricably entwined, and suggests that stress may actually change the physical structure and chemistry of your brain with harmful physical effects. It continues to state that one of the primary reasons stress can be so devastating is that it gradually cripples the body’s immune system, hindering its ability to recognize and stave off disease.”

It was really interesting to hear about the studies done on people and how their brain affects their immunity. In particular, a very in-depth study showed how people with large/strong social networks tend to live longer/recover better from health issues. For instance, a study of women with breast cancer showed a doubling in the life expectancy of women who attended support groups as compared to those that did not. And people with strong social networks were 2 to 3 times more likely to recover from heart attacks. And the studies just went on and on showing similar findings.

I found out at the end, that this is actually just one part of a 13 part series, sponsored by the Dana Foundation. And on their website, they have the actual programs that can be streamed, along with written transcripts. It was really fascinating, and if you’re interested in that sort of thing, I definitely recommend checking it out.

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