Stress is a feeling of strain and pressure. Just like physical disorders, stress and other mental disorders are equally fatal. In a recent research conducted by the Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine's Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary, it has been revealed that stress transmitted from one person to another can affect the brain just as real stress can. In the long run stress and emotions can be 'contagious'. The team of researchers conducted the study using pairs of male or female mice. During the process, they separated the two mice from each other and exposed one of them to mild stress before they again united. The team then examined the responses of certain specific cells known as the CRH neurons. The recorded responses of the pair of mice revealed that the networks of the brain of both the stressed mouse and its naïve partner have undergone same kind of change. They further used optogenetic approaches to engineer these neurons, making them capable of being turned on and off with light. The team then silenced the neurons during exposure to stress. As a result, the changes in the brain did not occur. Also, when the stressed partner interacted with the other partner, the transfer of stress did not happen. On the activation of these neurons with light, even in the absence of stress, the brains of both the partners underwent a change, just as happens in case of exposure to stress. The team further discovered that the activation of these CRH neurons leads to the release of a chemical signal, an 'alarm pheromone', from the mouse that alerts the partner. The team believes that this may be true for humans as well. The present research concludes that stress and social interactions are deeply connected and these have long lasting consequences.
By: Anuja Arora