Do you know someone who handles stress extremely well, yet another who can’t handle stress at all? In a recent press release, scientists have found that our ability to handle, or not handle, stress is linked to the particular paths that chemicals in our brains are used during communication. In other words, we are “wired” to have more, or less, resilience to stress.
Why are some people resilient, able to handle stress very well, while others presented with similar situations, fall apart and may become depressed? Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center have discovered that the brain cells we use to communicate can work differently from person to person. This difference is linked to our ability, or inability, to handle stress.
Ability to handle stress: Understanding differences is important
It is important to understand these differences so that scientists can further their work towards helping people boost their own resilience, handling stressful situations better and becoming less susceptible to depression.
Although their research was conducted on mice, the brains of mice and humans share many of the same chemical structures. Researchers determined that the mice that appeared to be depressed had a higher level of a particular chemical in some of the cells in their brains.
After examining human brain tissues, researchers found the same structure in the brain cells of humans who were diagnosed with depression. The chemical compound, BDNF, was also elevated in humans.
Researchers theorize that if they can control the release of the compound BDNF, they can increase one’s ability to become more resilient and cope with stress or depression better. At this point, scientists do not know what other processes BDNF may influence and are planning more research that will help them make that determination.
“One of the major insights provided by this work is that resilience to stress is an active process. This means that chronic stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and similar disorders might be treated by promoting the mechanisms that underlie resilience,” said Dr. Eric Nestler chairman of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Ability to handle stress: About the study
Using mice, researchers noticed wide variations in their reactions to stress. While some seemed adapt at reacting to stressful situations, others didn’t. Those that didn’t appear to adapt at handling the stress appeared to be depressed and timid.
The mice were nearly identical, having been inbred repeatedly before the study. However, when presented with similar stressful situations, the mice had different reactions. Since there were nearly identical genetically, scientists ruled out genetic causes.