The stressed brain of humans and rodents

M. Joels*, H. Karst, R. A. Sarabdjitsingh

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    After stress, the brain is exposed to waves of stress mediators, including corticosterone (in rodents) and cortisol (in humans). Corticosteroid hormones affect neuronal physiology in two time-domains: rapid, non-genomic actions primarily via mineralocorticoid receptors; and delayed genomic effects via glucocorticoid receptors. In parallel, cognitive processing is affected by stress hormones. Directly after stress, emotional behaviour involving the amygdala is strongly facilitated with cognitively a strong emphasis on the now and self, at the cost of higher cognitive processing. This enables the organism to quickly and adequately respond to the situation at hand. Several hours later, emotional circuits are dampened while functions related to the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are promoted. This allows the individual to rationalize the stressful event and place it in the right context, which is beneficial in the long run. The brain's response to stress depends on an individual's genetic background in interaction with life events. Studies in rodents point to the possibility to prevent or reverse long-term consequences of early life adversity on cognitive processing, by normalizing the balance between the two receptor types for corticosteroid hormones at a critical moment just before the onset of puberty.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number13066
    Number of pages10
    JournalActa physiologica
    Volume223
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2018

    Keywords

    • amygdala
    • corticosterone
    • cortisol
    • early life stress
    • hippocampus
    • EARLY-LIFE STRESS
    • MINERALOCORTICOID RECEPTORS
    • COGNITIVE FUNCTION
    • MEMORY-SYSTEMS
    • CORTICOSTERONE
    • ADAPTATION
    • MODULATION
    • MECHANISMS
    • MICE

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