last updated:

April 15, 2021

[Brain Image]    

PSY 340 Brain and Behavior

Class 29: Stress and Health


Think of the kinds of stress do you or other college students experience?

Demands of work and school at the same time?
Taking care of children or sick parents while holding down a job?
Demands at work that you give 110%?
Taking too many classes?
Personal life-threatening illness?

I. Stress and the Autonomic Nervous System

II. Stress, the HPA Axis, & the Immune System

  Effects of Stress on the Immune System

Cytokines: When we are sick, T-cells (a type of immune system cell in our blood) release chemicals called cytokines (e.g., interleukin-1). These combat infections and also communicate with the brain to promote appropriate nervous system responses. As we saw in an earlier chapter, cytokines stimulate receptors of the vagus nerve which, in turn, relays messages to the hypothalamus and hippocampus to release cytokines within the brain, too.
Strong, inescapable, and temporary stresses trigger similar responses to those caused by an illness: fever, sleepiness, decreased appetite & sex drive
Brief stress causes SNS arousal and HPA Axis arousal: in the short run, these strengthen the body.
Long-term or chronic stress, anger, or anxiety leads to harm of the body, e.g.,


Echouffo-Tcheugui, J. B. et al (2018) Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures. Neurology, 91(21). doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000006549

Ouanes, S., & Popp, J. (2019). High Cortisol and the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease - A Review of the Literature. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2019.00043

Puetz, V. B., Parker, D., et al. (2017). Altered brain network integrity after childhood maltreatment: A structural connectomic DTI-study. Human Brain Mapping, 38(2), 855-868. doi:10.1002/hbm.23423

Worth, M., Huijbers, W., & Lange, C. (2019). Cortisol associated with hypometabolism across the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum. bioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/514968

This page was first posted April 7, 2005.