Does Stress affect memory?

25 October 2009

Question

After I've been through a period of stress, somehow my memory isn;t as good as before. Is that a general problem?

Answer

We posed this question to Julie Williams from the University of Cardiff...Julie - Alright. I think it probably is a general problem. Learning, you probably need to have well activated nerve cells to create the synapses to learn new information. So I think this probably could be affected by stress. So I would say it's a general problem. Chris - Because one other thing that people have realized is that the hormones that make our stress cortisol, there are receptors for those chemicals in the brain, and they do seem to cause damage if they're present chronically to those parts of the brain, particularly the hippocampus which is concerned with making memories. So maybe that's part of the manifestation, Julie. Julie - We also know that people who have had major depression throughout their lifetime or bipolar disorder tend to have a highly - a slightly higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease at later life. This could be due to the medication they take or it could be due to the actual process of depression. So there are some areas of support for that.

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