Tag Archives | Stress

Financial Insecurity Causes Temporary IQ Drop Of 13 Points

moneyHow poverty impacts people, via the Seattle Times:

People worrying about having enough money to pay bills tend to lose temporarily the equivalent of 13 IQ points, scientists found when they gave intelligence tests to shoppers at a New Jersey mall and farmers in India.

Dealing with financial strain consumes so much mental energy that people struggling to make ends meet often have little brainpower left for anything else, leaving them more susceptible to bad decisions that can perpetuate their situation, according to the new study.

Mullainathan and colleagues tested the same 464 farmers in the sugar-cane fields of India before and after the harvest and their IQ scores improved by 25 percent when their wallets fattened. Before the harvest, the farmers take out loans and pawn goods. After they sell their harvest, they are flush with cash.

In the New Jersey part of the study, the scientists tested about 400 shoppers at Quaker Bridge Mall, presenting them with scenarios that involved a large and a small car-repair bill.

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Today’s Environment Can Influence Behavior Generations Later

He's Coming!

Photo: An-d (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University have seen an increased reaction to stress in animals whose ancestors were exposed to an environmental compound generations earlier.

The findings, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put a new twist on the notions of nature and nurture, with broad implications for how certain behavioral tendencies might be inherited. The researchers—David Crews at Texas, Michael Skinner at Washington State and colleagues—exposed gestating female rats to vinclozolin, a popular fruit and vegetable fungicide known to disrupt hormones and have effects across generations of animals. The researchers then put the rats’ third generation of offspring through a variety of behavioral tests and found they were more anxious, more sensitive to stress, and had greater activity in stress-related regions of the brain than descendants of unexposed rats.

“We are now in the third human generation since the start of the chemical revolution, since humans have been exposed to these kinds of toxins,” says Crews.

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Scientists Develop A Vaccine For Stress

drsapolsky-512_370x278Is this a step on the path to a Brave New World? The head of a research team at Stanford says he is on the verge of producing a vaccine that would deactivate the brain’s stress-causing chemicals. For the first time, people could shut off the fight-or-flight mechanism that has determined our behavior (and helped ensure our survival) since the caveman era. Via CBS News:

Dr Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscience professor at Stanford, says after 30 years of studying stress, his team might be on the verge of a novel cure.

Sapolsky has long theorized that, unlike some animals, humans are unable to turn off stress chemicals used for the fight-or-flight mechanism. A class of hormone called glucocorticoids are one of the chief offenders, according to Sapolsky.

So his team has pioneered a way to bootstrap a “herpes virus to carry engineered ‘neuroprotective’ genes deep into the brain to neutralize the rogue hormones before they can cause damage.”

So far, rat studies have gone well, according to the British paper.

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Early Life Stress Has Effects at the Molecular Level

by Lin Edwards in PhysOrg.com:

A new study of mice suggests that stress and trauma in early life can have an impact on the genes and result in behavioral problems later in life.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, looked at the long-term effects of stress mice suffered soon after their birth. The stress was produced by separating the mouse pups from their mothers for three hours a day for the first ten days of their lives. The separation did not affect their nutrition but would have made them feel abandoned. The pups were then followed through their lives.

The researchers found the stress caused the baby mice to produce hormones that altered their genes and affected their later behavior, making them less able to cope with stress later in life. The mice exposed to the stresses also had poorer memories than the control group.

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