Wednesday October 24, 2018

Social Isolation Can Lead to Increase in Stress

Researchers have found that long-term chronic isolation causes the build-up of a chemical in the brain, that increases stress, aggression, and fear.

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But, administration of a drug that chemically blocks NkB-specific receptors enabled the stressed mice to behave normally, eliminating the negative effects of social isolation.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons
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Researchers have found that long-term chronic isolation causes the build-up of a chemical in the brain, that increases stress, aggression, and fear.

The mice isolated for two weeks showed behavioral changes like increased aggressiveness towards unfamiliar mice, persistent fear, and hypersensitivity to threatening stimuli.

When encountering a threatening stimulus, mice that have been socially isolated remain frozen in place long after the threat has passed, whereas normal mice stop freezing soon after the threat is removed, the research said.

Although the study was done in mice, it has potential implications for understanding how chronic stress affects humans and has potential applications for treating mental health disorders, said lead author Moriel Zelikowsky, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology in the US.

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A new study suggests meditation can reduce stress and anxiety. VOA

Previous studies have determined that social isolation for two weeks in mice resulted in the upregulation of the signaling molecule neuropeptide, tachykinin 2 (Tac2)/neurokinin B (NkB) — a short protein molecule.

In the new study, published in the journal Cell, the team found that chronic isolation leads to an increase in Tac2 gene expression and the production of a neuropeptide called neurokinin B (NkB) throughout the brain.

But, administration of a drug that chemically blocks NkB-specific receptors enabled the stressed mice to behave normally, eliminating the negative effects of social isolation.

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On the other hand, artificially increasing Tac2 levels and activating the corresponding neurons in normal, animals led them to behave like isolated and stressed, the research showed.

Suppressing the Tac2 gene in certain different brain parts, increased fear behaviors, or aggression accordingly, implying that it must increase in different brain regions to produce the various effects of social isolation, the researchers said. (IANS)

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Higher Levels of Stress May Reduce Fertility in Women, says Study

The researchers did not find an association between men's PSS score and the likelihood of conceiving

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Stress reduces fertility in women, but not in men: Study. Pixabay

Higher levels of stress can lower conception or fertility in women but it does not affect men, finds a study.

The researchers, from Boston University in the US, found that the association between higher levels of stress and lower levels of conception could be due to decreased intercourse frequency, increased partner stress discordance and higher levels of menstrual cycle irregularity.

“Although this study does not definitely prove that stress causes infertility, it does provide evidence supporting the integration of mental health care in preconception guidance and care,” said Amelia Wesselink, Research Assistant at the varsity.

For the new study, published in American Journal of Epidemiology, the team analysed 4,769 women and 1,272 men who did not have a history of infertility and had not been trying to conceive for more than six menstrual cycles.

The team measured perceived stress using the 10-item version of the stress scale (PSS) to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overwhelming individuals find their life circumstances.

stress
Representational image. Pixabay

On average, baseline PSS scores were about 1 point higher among women than men and the average follow-up PSS scores among women remained fairly constant over the 12 months.

The findings revealed that women with PSS scores of at least 25 were 13 per cent less likely to conceive than women with PSS scores under 10.

This association was stronger among women who had been trying to conceive for no more than two menstrual cycles than among women who had been trying for three or more cycles before enrolling. The association was also stronger among women under 35 years.

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The researchers did not find an association between men’s PSS score and the likelihood of conceiving.

However, couples in the study were about 25 per cent less likely to conceive when the man’s PSS score was under 10 and the women’s was 20 or higher, said the researchers. (IANS)