Effects of Stress on Memory

Topics: Stress, Blood pressure, Hippocampus Pages: 19 (6446 words) Published: May 2, 2007
The effects of Stress on Short Term Memory
When someone says the word stress the mind immediately shifts to a negative thought with painful consequences, although stress can be either positive or negative. Negative stress has been blamed for a variety of health issues as well as psychological and physiological symptoms and problems. It is estimated that millions of pounds are lost in work related, educational and health care costs every year due to stress. While stress is a naturally occurring reaction to the environment around the individual it can be harmful if prolonged or in increased amounts. For the purpose of this paper, we will examine the realms of stress and the impact of stress on memory. What is Stress?

In a dangerous or unpleasant experience the body reacts automatically to the threat by the brain triggering a number of activities. Stress is defined as a reaction by the body to an internal or external perceived harmful threat, that causes the body to come under pressure or strain (Panzarino, 2006). During an event that an individual feels threatened, physiological triggers in the brain create a state in which many things take place. Chemicals such as adrenaline and Cortisol are released into the blood stream causing defensive actions to take place in the muscles. These chemicals cause heart rate increases which in turn increase blood pressure and blood sugar. The increase in blood flow allows additional oxygen to be distributed throughout the body that is needed for this increased state of alertness and energy. The body basically prepares itself for defensive actions by protecting itself or preparing to run, which ever is most feasible at the time. Most have heard of the term "fight or flight"; this is what is referred to as the stress induced state. If the individual is to flee they will need more energy and the ability to run from the threat. On the other hand if a fight is in order the body must be prepared for extended bursts of strength and endurance as well as healing capabilities. The chemicals released by the brain prepare the body for these reactions to a stressful event. After the threat has ended and the individual is returned to a stage of safety the body will then return to a normal state or a homeostasis.

Types of Stress
Acute Stress is a type of stress that is an immediate reaction to an external event, such as a car accident or a loud noise. The immediate changes within the body allow the person to spring into action to determine the appropriate action that is needed. Everyone experiences acute stress on a daily basis. Examples include a soft drink spilling or a boss that is having a bad day at work. This type of stress resolves as quickly as it presents, causing no noticeable long-term effects. During acute stress the body and mind are at its very best. All brain functions including memory are very sharp and processing incoming data. The brain is working very hard to sort through the information and commits the experiences to memory for future use. If the stress is continued it can cause memory to be inhibited, but until that point the memory is sharp. Distress

Distress is exactly like it sounds; a negative reaction to changes in environment, mental or internal events that cause an adverse reaction for the individual. The brain does not accept change without reacting. The brain functions more like a computer and works better under the presumption of a routine. When the routine is changed or altered the body reacts to the stress by setting into action a course of events designed to mitigate any perceived damage. Eustress

Stress does not necessarily have to be a negative event that triggers the body to respond. Positive stress or eustress is referred to as a positive event that causes an individual to assume a fresh look on life and keep them engaged in living. Stress is the body's natural reaction to changes in the environment regardless of whether they are...

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