Short-Term Stress Actually Improves Memory

Occasional stress may actually have a positive impact on the brain, according to a new study by  Daniela Kaufer and her colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley. From the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation:

“While chronic stress has been linked to the development of anxiety and depression, this new study finds beneficial effect from some stress. The researchers looked at how episodes of temporary (or ‘acute’) stress stimulate the production of neurons in the hippocampus, which is the brain region that plays a key role in forming and retaining memories.

In contrast to chronic stress, which can be detrimental and increase risks for many conditions, this study used mice models to show that within two weeks of experiencing a short-term stress—perhaps the right window of time needed to birth new neurons—mice showed improved memory.

Of the findings, Dr. Kaufer says that some stress may make people more alert and enhance memory and behavior. She cautions that the length, amount and personal response plays a role in the potential for stress to benefit a person.” (Read more here.)

I wonder if there would be a way for individuals—or schools or workplaces—to arrange it so that stress is experienced in short intervals, rather than chronically? We’re not going to get rid of stress, obviously, but maybe we can manage how it’s experienced.

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