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Neural circuitry converts stress into physical reactions
Emotional stress is generally considered unhealthy and is associated with numerous physical complaints. So far, however, it was unclear why this is so. A Japanese research team has now discovered a neural circuit that controls physical responses to emotional stress. This cycle could be a key target for the treatment of stress-related disorders such as panic attacks and stress disorders.
Researchers at Nagoya University identified a previously unknown circuit in the brain that responds to emotional stress. The neural circuit runs through the deep areas of the brain called the dorsal peduncular cortex and dorsal tenia tecta. From there, stress signals are sent to the hypothalamic brain region, where the body's vital functions are controlled. The results were recently published in the renowned science journal.
Stress can manifest itself through numerous physical complaints
Emotional stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to physical reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and body temperature, as well as a faster heart rate. Behind it, researchers suspect a natural performance-enhancing reaction to combat or flight situations. However, if these situations do not occur and the reaction to them does take place, this could have negative health consequences.
Stress reactions largely unknown
In order to develop strategies against stress-related illnesses, the neuronal mechanism underlying the physical reactions to stress must first be understood. Here, the Japanese research team led by Professor Kazuhiro Nakamura made a great contribution to understanding.
Rat brains provided information
The team injected tracers into the brains of rats. These radioactive markers can be used to track biochemical processes in the organism. The stress reactions that rats experience through dominant conspecifics were then observed.
The research team used the tracers to pay particular attention to a region of the brain that was unusually active under stress and affected the hypothalamus, the most important control center of the autonomic nervous system. This resulted in a stress-related physical reaction that included an increase in blood pressure, body temperature and a faster heart rate. When the researchers blocked the connection to the hypothalamus, the physical reaction failed to materialize.
New therapeutic approach for stress-related diseases
The study shows for the first time how a circuit in the brain is specifically responsible for sending stress signals to the hypothalamus and that blocking this circuit could reduce the stress symptoms in the rats.
Connection between body and mind
"The DP / DTT are parts of the brain that are involved in processing emotions and stress," sums up Professor Nakamura. The newly discovered DP / DTT hypothalamic signaling pathway represents a brain mechanism for a connection between body and mind and therefore offers a potential target for the treatment of stress-related disorders such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorders and psychogenic fever. (vb)
Also read: Stress Relief: Stress Relief Made Easy.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Nagoya University: Found: Neural circuit that drives physical responses to emotional stress (published: April 30th, 2020), en.nagoya-u.ac.jp
- Naoya Kataoka, Yuta Shima, Keisuke Nakajima, Kazuhiro Nakamura, among others: A central master driver of psychosocial stress responses in the rat; in: Science, 2020, science.sciencemag.org