The stress response begins in the brain. When someone is faced with danger or feels threatened, the eyes or ears (or both) send the information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. When it senses danger, it shuts down the entire brain and prepares the body to combine all of its resources for survival (fight, flight, freeze mode) which allows you to react before you even have time to think about what is happening. Then it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This triggers a cascade of stress hormones to be released throughout the body.
Researchers are now learning how stressors can physically alter our brains which ultimately my impact how we learn, form memories and even make decisions. Stress is probably the most common cause for changes in the brain function.
So does stress kill brain cells?
The answer seems to be YES!
Stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol.
One study found that giving rats daily injections of corticosterone (rat cortisol) for several weeks kills certain brain cells. Stressing the rats each day for the same amount of time has an identical effect. Cortisol has been shown to damage and kill cells in the hippocampus (the brain area responsible for forming new memories) and there is a powerful amount of evidence that chronic stress causes premature brain aging.
Without cortisol you would die but too much of it has proven to be a bad thing. It seems to make you brain more vulnerable to damage such as strokes, aging and stressful events.
This is another reason I am so passionate about EFT. A study performed showed that EFT reduces cortisol levels more than any other intervention tested to date! Below is a description of the study. If you would like to explore other research regarding EFT you can click on my research tab up above or go to EFT Universe. That is where I obtained the following article:
SANTA ROSA, CA. A study published the prestigious Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, the oldest peer-reviewed psychology journal in the United States, found that Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) lowered the major stress hormone cortisol significantly more than other interventions tested.
In a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of scientific research), 83 subjects were randomly assigned to a single hour-long session of EFT, talk therapy, or rest. Their cortisol levels were measured via a saliva test before and after the session. Cortisol is the “master hormone” regulating many aspects of the body’s stress response mechanisms. The researchers hypothesized that successful therapy would lower stress and that this would be reflected biochemically in a reduced level of salivary cortisol and psychologically in reduced levels of anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of psychological distress.
The results showed that cortisol levels in the rest and therapy groups declined by an average of 14%, while the EFT group declined 24%. The decline in this physiological marker of stress was also significantly correlated with a decline in anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms as measured by a standard psychological assessment tool.
The human body is designed to release cortisol only at times of physical danger, to help the body mobilize to fight or flee from that threat. The level of cortisol and other adrenal hormones such as adrenaline are supposed to subside when the danger passes. The human body is not meant to live in a constant “bath” of cortisol and adrenaline. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening to many people in today’s stressful world. Most are not responding to physical danger but to traffic, work worries, financial problems, and the myriad other stresses of modern life. Continually elevated cortisol levels are known to contribute to a range of physical and psychological problems, including fatigue, weakened immunity, anxiety, depression, digestive and metabolic problems, obesity, and even diseases such as diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
EFT is a noninvasive technique that pairs the recall of emotional upsets (a form of exposure therapy, a common method in psychology) with physical stimulation of specific points on the body to discharge stress (as identified by thousands of years of use in acupuncture). The physiological mechanisms of action of EFT have been documented in a number of studies and review articles. These demonstrate that EFT affects several of the body’s regulatory systems, including the brain and endocrine systems.
Unlike various drugs and supplements touted to lower cortisol, EFT has no side effects. And unlike the “cortisol blockers” that have flooded the market as the negative effects of elevated cortisol have become more widely known, EFT does not strip the body of cortisol’s precursor molecules, which are used for cell repair when we are in a relaxed state.
Garret Yount, PhD, of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, coauthored the study with Audrey Brooks, PhD, of the University of Arizona at Tucson, and Dawson Church, PhD, of the Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine. Regarding the research results, Dr. Yount states, “This is exciting because it is the first randomized controlled trial of EFT to evaluate a physiological biomarker (i.e., cortisol levels) and it shows robust, positive effects. It sets the stage for further research to explore whether EFT affects other physiological systems, including the expression of genes involved in the stress response.”
If you were sitting on the fence before regarding EFT, hopefully this article will help you put your skepticism aside, and give EFT a try! Don’t you find it fascinating that a simple tool like EFT can help you preserve your brain cells!