With our current lifestyle stress goes hand in hand–and there’s no denying that! While everybody knows that stress is neither good for your physical health nor your mental health, it may also affect your thinking process.
A new study has found that stress can impact different aspects of the thinking process in humans including their problem-solving ability. The study was conducted by the researchers of the University Of Missouri School Of Medicine and the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and has been published in the journal NeuroImage
The study showed a potential indicator of how stress affects the brain and alters its ability to solve the problem. This finding could be beneficial in understanding the treatment of stress-related illnesses.
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The results were derived from two companion studies involving 45 healthy college-age individuals who were genetically tested for the presence of at least one copy of a variation in the serotonin transporter gene (SERT), which is associated with greater susceptibility to stress.
The participants were given various tests while being monitored by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The first test was about verbal processing tasks conducted in two sessions (stress and no-stress control), where they were asked a number of items from a category they could name in a minute.
Researchers found that stress did not impact the overall performance for either group but there was a prominent effect of stress on individual performance. It related to changes in the brain’s overall functional connectivity in all participants.
Lead researcher David Beversdorf says:
This may help us understand what is going on in the brain when stress is affecting cognition. If we can develop an intervention that affects the brain’s networks, we may be able to mitigate the cognitively impairing effects of stress.
In the second study, the same participants completed problem-solving tasks in two sessions (stress and no-stress control) during MRI testing. Here the researchers discovered some changes to the connections involving a section of the brain called the middle temporal gyrus–related to changes in performance during stress in participants.
This relationship depended on the presence or absence of the stress-related variant of the SERT gene which is indicating a potential specific brain marker associated with susceptibility to stress during problem-solving.
“When you look at the relationship of the imaging changes in the brain and the performance changes resulting from stress, the left middle temporal gyrus appears to be a critical hub, and this relationship depends on an individual’s genetic susceptibility to stress,” said Beversdorf.
Now you know that solving a problem can be done in a better and easier way if you avoid stressing out too much.