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Stress and Cognition The Neuroscience Behind Stress, Memory & Thinking Debra S. Austin, PhD, JD Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead.

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Presentation on theme: "Stress and Cognition The Neuroscience Behind Stress, Memory & Thinking Debra S. Austin, PhD, JD Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stress and Cognition The Neuroscience Behind Stress, Memory & Thinking Debra S. Austin, PhD, JD Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness. ~ James Thurber ~

2  Areas of the brain involved in learning  Neuroscience of memory formation  Difference between emotions and feelings  Impact of negative emotions on learning  Suggestions to maximize cognitive function

3 Learning about the Brain  First Illustrated Brain Manual  Cerebri Anatome 1664  Modern brain research  Animal Studies  Brain Scans  Brain Structure Scanning: X-Ray, CT, MRI  Brain Activity Scanning: EEG, fMRI, MEG, PET, DTI

4 Brain Facts  3 lbs  Size of a coconut  Walnut shaped  Consistency of Jell-O or chilled butter  Evolved from the top of the spine up  Requires  25% of calories consumed  20% of oxygen breathed  25% of body’s total blood flow

5 Primitive Brain  Brain Stem, Hindbrain, or Reptilian Brain  Governs basic motor functions  Breathing, digestion, heartbeat, sleeping, balance  Key Parts: brain stem, midbrain, cerebellum  Engaged when struggling for survival

6 Emotional Brain  Inner Brain or Limbic System  Manages circadian rhythm, hunger, sex hormones, addiction, and emotions  Key Parts (in pairs, one in each hemisphere): amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus, nucleus accumbens, and ventral tegmental  Engaged when experiencing an emotional response or creating new memories

7 Thinking Brain  Cerebral Cortex  Key Parts  Two hemispheres linked by the corpus callosum  Four major lobes  Frontal lobe (language, reasoning, movement)  Occipital lobe (vision)  Temporal lobe (hearing)  Parietal Lobe(taste, temperature, touch)  Outer layer is grey matter - densely-packed neurons  Inner layer is white matter  Engaged when using reasoning and logic to conduct higher-order thinking

8 Brain Cells  Neurons  Communication nerve cells  Shaped like trees  Information travels from the branches (dendrites) down the trunk (axon) and across a tiny gap (synapse)to the next group of dendrites  Chemicals (neurotransmitters) carry the information over the synaptic gap  Electrical-Chemical-Electrical

9 Over 100 Neurotransmitters  Serotonin (mood, anxiety, sleep)  Endorphins (reduce pain, increase pleasure)  Oxytocin (bonding)  Acetylcholine (attentiveness, memory)  Glutamate (learning, memory)  Dopamine (motivation, pleasure, meaning)

10 Brainy Vocabulary  Triune Brain Structure  primitive, emotional & thinking brains  Neuron  tree-shaped brain cell & unit of communication  Neurogenesis  the birth of new brain cells  In the Hippocampus & Olefactory Bulbs  Neuroplasticity  changes in your brain  Connectome  unique system map of neuron data pathways

11 Your Connectome  You are your synapses  Your brain is a work in progress  Neurons that fire together wire together

12 Nondeclarative Memories  Cannot be experienced in conscious awareness  Procedural Memories  Stored in cerebellum (primitive brain)  Skiing, dancing, driving  Fear Memories  Stored in amygdala (emotional brain)  Flashbacks and phobias

13 Declarative Memories  Require conscious thought to be recalled  Stored in both emotional and thinking brain  Episodic Memories - Autobiographical personal experiences  Semantic Memories - Learned Knowledge: facts, concepts & words

14 Parts of Brain Involved in Learning  Thinking Brain  Frontal Lobe  language, reasoning, movement  Occipital Lobe  vision  Temporal Lobe  hearing  Parietal Lobe  taste, temperature, touch  Emotional Brain  Thalamus  Amygdala  Hippocampus

15 Laying Down a Memory  Consolidation: a Memory Trace is converted to Long-Term Memory and becomes stable in the brain  Encoding: processing sensory information  Thinking Brain  Information enters via the senses  Emotional Brain  Thalamus focuses attention, screens information, and sends it to the Hippocampus  Amygdala checks information for emotional content

16 Thinking & Emotional Brain Consolidation Loop  Consolidation During Sleep  Information travels a neural loop from Thinking Brain (sensory lobe of origin) to Emotional Brain (Hippocampus) & repeats  Takes 2-10 years  Once memory is fully consolidated, the Hippocampus lets go of its relationship with the Cortex  Consolidated memories are distributed throughout the Cortex

17 Emotion  An unconscious and automatic response to an emotional stimulus that results in physical changes  increased heart rate & blood pressure  Sweaty palms  Blushing  Six Primary Emotions FearAngerSadnessDisgustSurpriseJoy

18 Feelings  Emotions are experienced as feelings  Feelings are the conscious perceptions of emotional responses

19 Stress  Engineering  Amount of resistance a material offers to being reshaped  In Humans  Physiological response to stressor that is measurable by another party  Stressor must be perceived as negative  Stressed person must feel she has no control over the stressor  Stress involves some combination of 4 of the 6 primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness and/or disgust

20 Types of Stress  Acute Stress  Short-lived  Triggers fight or flight response  Can be helpful by assisting focus on novel intellectual challenge or marshaling resources for a significant physical challenge  Chronic Stress  Long-lasting  Occurs during situations like a troubled intimate relationship, financial struggles after a job loss, or treatment for a life-threatening illness

21 Emotional Stimulus  Endocrine System  Secretion & regulation of hormones in bloodstream  Autonomic System  Mediates physiological changes in body  Skeletal Motor System  Controls behaviors such as freeze, fight, flight, and facial expressions

22 Endocrine System  Main Stress Hormones: Adrenalin & Glucocorticoids  Major Glucocorticoid is Cortisol  Glucocorticoids tell the Autonomic System to  Elevate heart rate & blood pressure  Mobilize energy  Slow digestion  Suppress immune system  Evolutionary Purpose – quick response to ensure survival

23 Elevated Glucocorticoids  Physical  Impaired Immune Response  Increased Appetite & Food Cravings  Increased Body Fat  Increased PMS & Menopause Symptoms  Decreased Muscle Mass, Bone Density & Libido  Emotional  Increased Mood Swings, Irritability & Anger  Increased Anxiety & Depression

24 Memory Consolidation

25 Your Brain on Glucocorticoids  Suppression of Neurogenesis (birth of new brain cells) in Hippocampus  Damage to Hippocampus can create cycle where greater amounts of Glucocorticoids are released, producing additional Hippocampal atrophy  Hippocampal Neurodegeneration & Cell Death

26 Impact of Stress on Cognition  Deterioration in memory, concentration, problem-solving, math performance, language processing, curiosity, creativity, and motivation  Hippocampi shrink in size  Depression  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  Repeated exposure to jet lag

27 Reverse Hippocampal Damage Increase Neurogenesis  Exercise  Healthful Sleep  Antidepressants

28 Exercise  Enhances blood and oxygen flow  Stimulates production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF)  30 minutes of aerobic exercise 2 to 3 times per week + strength training for maximum cognitive benefit

29 Increased Blood Flow  Improves blood flow deeper into body tissues  Enhances distribution of food and elimination of waste  Increases blood volume in Hippocampus  Maintains health and functioning of Hippocampus

30 BDNF  Protein that helps  Create new neurons  Protect existing neurons  Encourage synapses formation  BDNF production enhanced by  Exercise  Calorie Reduction  Intellectual Stimulation  Curcumin (active ingredient in spice Turmeric)  Omega-3 Fat DHA

31 Sleep  90 Minutes to 2 Hours to Stage 5 REM Sleep  Hippocampus & Amygdala very active during REM  Communication between neurons at rate equal to or higher than when awake  Memory consolidation genes activated during REM, which helps formation of new neural connections

32 Sleep Research  Subjects awakened during REM lost ability to learn new information  Loss of 1 night of sleep = 30% cognitive decline  Loss of 2 nights of sleep = 60% cognitive decline  Less than 6 hours of sleep for 5 nights in a row = 60% cognitive decline  Sleep Deprivation  Diminishes attention, working memory, executive function, quantitative skills, logical reasoning ability, mood, and fine & gross motor control  Accelerates Aging Process  Impairs ability to use fuel/food creating risk of diabetes and obesity

33 Circadian Rhythm  Arousal System  Neurons, hormones & chemicals keep body awake  Sleep Drive  Neurons, hormones & chemicals put body to sleep  Larks (Early Chronotypes)  10% of population  Productive early in day & want to sleep about 9pm  Owls (Late Chronotypes)  20% of population  Productive late in day & may want to retire at 3am  Hummingbirds  70% in middle of the spectrum

34 Siesta Time  Arousal System & Sleep Drive flat-line in the afternoon  Causes a desire to nap  Naps improve cognition  26-minute nap improved NASA pilot performance by 34%  45-minute nap improved cognition for at least 6 hours

35 Antidepressants  Increase the rate of neurogenesis  Includes SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors)

36 Maximize Cognitive Function  Commit to and perform regular exercise  Make regular and adequate sleep a priority  If treated with antidepressants, continue treatment

37 Article & More Brainy Vocabulary  SSRN  Debra Austin  Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die From Law School Stress  Learn about the hidden law school curriculum and what the Carnegie Report has to say about it


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