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From the Ted Talk by Madhumita Murgia: How stress affects your brain

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Are you sleeping restlessly, feeling irritable or moody, forgetting little things, and feeling overwhelmed and isolated? Don't worry. We've all been there. You're probably just stressed out. Stress isn't always a bad thing. It can be handy for a burst of extra eerngy and focus, like when you're playing a competitive sport, or have to speak in public. But when its continuous, the kind most of us face day in and day out, it actually begins to change your brain. Chronic stress, like being overworked or having arguments at home, can affect brain size, its structure, and how it fniucotns, right down to the level of your genes. Stress begins with something called the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, a series of interactions between endocrine glands in the brain and on the kediny, which cnrtolos your body's reaction to stress. When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone cleald cortisol, which pmeris your body for instant action. But high levels of cortisol over long peorids of time wreak havoc on your brain. For example, chronic stsres iearnsecs the activity level and nbumer of neural connections in the alydamga, your brain's fear center. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, miormees, and stress control, deteriorate. The hippocampus also inhibits the activity of the HPA axis, so when it weakens, so does your ability to control your stress. That's not all, though. Cortisol can literally cause your brain to shrink in size. Too much of it results in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain the regulates behaviors like concentration, decision-making, judgement, and social interaction. It also ldaes to fewer new brain cells being made in the hmuopppacis. This maens cihronc stress might make it hrdear for you to learn and rmeemebr things, and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer's disease. The effects of stress may filter right down to your brain's DNA. An experiment sweohd that the amount of ntururnig a mother rat provides its newborn baby plays a part in determining how that baby responds to stress later in life. The pups of nurturing moms turned out less sensitive to stress because their banris developed more cortisol receptors, which stick to cortisol and dampen the stress response. The pups of negligent moms had the opposite outcome, and so became more sensitive to stress throughout life. These are cseenirodd epigenetic changes, meaning that they effect which genes are expressed without directly changing the genetic code. And these changes can be reversed if the moms are swapped. But there's a surprising result. The epigenetic changes caused by one snglie mother rat were pseasd down to many generations of rats after her. In other words, the results of these actions were inheritable. It's not all bad news, though. There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your sssetred bairn. The most powerful wpoaens are exercise and mdittoaein, which involves bhinatreg deeply and being aware and focused on your surroundings. Both of these activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving your memory. So don't feel defeated by the peesurrss of daily life. Get in control of your stress before it tkaes crotnol of you.

Open Cloze

Are you sleeping restlessly, feeling irritable or moody, forgetting little things, and feeling overwhelmed and isolated? Don't worry. We've all been there. You're probably just stressed out. Stress isn't always a bad thing. It can be handy for a burst of extra ______ and focus, like when you're playing a competitive sport, or have to speak in public. But when its continuous, the kind most of us face day in and day out, it actually begins to change your brain. Chronic stress, like being overworked or having arguments at home, can affect brain size, its structure, and how it _________, right down to the level of your genes. Stress begins with something called the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, a series of interactions between endocrine glands in the brain and on the ______, which ________ your body's reaction to stress. When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone ______ cortisol, which ______ your body for instant action. But high levels of cortisol over long _______ of time wreak havoc on your brain. For example, chronic ______ _________ the activity level and ______ of neural connections in the ________, your brain's fear center. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, ________, and stress control, deteriorate. The hippocampus also inhibits the activity of the HPA axis, so when it weakens, so does your ability to control your stress. That's not all, though. Cortisol can literally cause your brain to shrink in size. Too much of it results in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain the regulates behaviors like concentration, decision-making, judgement, and social interaction. It also _____ to fewer new brain cells being made in the ___________. This _____ _______ stress might make it ______ for you to learn and ________ things, and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer's disease. The effects of stress may filter right down to your brain's DNA. An experiment ______ that the amount of _________ a mother rat provides its newborn baby plays a part in determining how that baby responds to stress later in life. The pups of nurturing moms turned out less sensitive to stress because their ______ developed more cortisol receptors, which stick to cortisol and dampen the stress response. The pups of negligent moms had the opposite outcome, and so became more sensitive to stress throughout life. These are __________ epigenetic changes, meaning that they effect which genes are expressed without directly changing the genetic code. And these changes can be reversed if the moms are swapped. But there's a surprising result. The epigenetic changes caused by one ______ mother rat were ______ down to many generations of rats after her. In other words, the results of these actions were inheritable. It's not all bad news, though. There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your ________ _____. The most powerful _______ are exercise and __________, which involves _________ deeply and being aware and focused on your surroundings. Both of these activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving your memory. So don't feel defeated by the _________ of daily life. Get in control of your stress before it _____ _______ of you.

Solution

  1. stress
  2. chronic
  3. considered
  4. means
  5. leads
  6. remember
  7. hippocampus
  8. harder
  9. brains
  10. controls
  11. single
  12. pressures
  13. amygdala
  14. increases
  15. meditation
  16. energy
  17. functions
  18. showed
  19. takes
  20. breathing
  21. stressed
  22. called
  23. primes
  24. weapons
  25. periods
  26. kidney
  27. brain
  28. nurturing
  29. number
  30. passed
  31. memories
  32. control

Original Text

Are you sleeping restlessly, feeling irritable or moody, forgetting little things, and feeling overwhelmed and isolated? Don't worry. We've all been there. You're probably just stressed out. Stress isn't always a bad thing. It can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you're playing a competitive sport, or have to speak in public. But when its continuous, the kind most of us face day in and day out, it actually begins to change your brain. Chronic stress, like being overworked or having arguments at home, can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions, right down to the level of your genes. Stress begins with something called the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, a series of interactions between endocrine glands in the brain and on the kidney, which controls your body's reaction to stress. When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone called cortisol, which primes your body for instant action. But high levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak havoc on your brain. For example, chronic stress increases the activity level and number of neural connections in the amygdala, your brain's fear center. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, memories, and stress control, deteriorate. The hippocampus also inhibits the activity of the HPA axis, so when it weakens, so does your ability to control your stress. That's not all, though. Cortisol can literally cause your brain to shrink in size. Too much of it results in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain the regulates behaviors like concentration, decision-making, judgement, and social interaction. It also leads to fewer new brain cells being made in the hippocampus. This means chronic stress might make it harder for you to learn and remember things, and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer's disease. The effects of stress may filter right down to your brain's DNA. An experiment showed that the amount of nurturing a mother rat provides its newborn baby plays a part in determining how that baby responds to stress later in life. The pups of nurturing moms turned out less sensitive to stress because their brains developed more cortisol receptors, which stick to cortisol and dampen the stress response. The pups of negligent moms had the opposite outcome, and so became more sensitive to stress throughout life. These are considered epigenetic changes, meaning that they effect which genes are expressed without directly changing the genetic code. And these changes can be reversed if the moms are swapped. But there's a surprising result. The epigenetic changes caused by one single mother rat were passed down to many generations of rats after her. In other words, the results of these actions were inheritable. It's not all bad news, though. There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your stressed brain. The most powerful weapons are exercise and meditation, which involves breathing deeply and being aware and focused on your surroundings. Both of these activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving your memory. So don't feel defeated by the pressures of daily life. Get in control of your stress before it takes control of you.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
chronic stress 2
mother rat 2

Important Words

  1. ability
  2. action
  3. actions
  4. activated
  5. activities
  6. activity
  7. adrenal
  8. affect
  9. amount
  10. amygdala
  11. arguments
  12. aware
  13. axis
  14. baby
  15. bad
  16. begins
  17. behaviors
  18. body
  19. brain
  20. brains
  21. breathing
  22. burst
  23. called
  24. caused
  25. cells
  26. center
  27. change
  28. changing
  29. chronic
  30. code
  31. competitive
  32. concentration
  33. connections
  34. considered
  35. continuous
  36. control
  37. controls
  38. cortex
  39. cortisol
  40. daily
  41. dampen
  42. day
  43. decrease
  44. deeply
  45. defeated
  46. depression
  47. detects
  48. deteriorate
  49. determining
  50. developed
  51. disease
  52. dna
  53. effect
  54. effects
  55. electric
  56. endocrine
  57. energy
  58. epigenetic
  59. eventually
  60. exercise
  61. experiment
  62. expressed
  63. extra
  64. face
  65. fear
  66. feel
  67. feeling
  68. filter
  69. focus
  70. focused
  71. forgetting
  72. functions
  73. generations
  74. genes
  75. genetic
  76. glands
  77. handy
  78. harder
  79. havoc
  80. high
  81. hippocampus
  82. home
  83. hormone
  84. hpa
  85. hypothalamus
  86. improving
  87. increase
  88. increases
  89. inheritable
  90. inhibits
  91. instant
  92. instantly
  93. interaction
  94. interactions
  95. involves
  96. irritable
  97. isolated
  98. judgement
  99. kidney
  100. kind
  101. leads
  102. learn
  103. learning
  104. level
  105. levels
  106. life
  107. literally
  108. long
  109. loss
  110. meaning
  111. means
  112. meditation
  113. memories
  114. memory
  115. mental
  116. moms
  117. moody
  118. mother
  119. negligent
  120. neural
  121. neurons
  122. newborn
  123. news
  124. number
  125. nurturing
  126. outcome
  127. overwhelmed
  128. overworked
  129. part
  130. passed
  131. periods
  132. pituitary
  133. playing
  134. plays
  135. powerful
  136. prefrontal
  137. pressures
  138. primes
  139. problems
  140. public
  141. pups
  142. rat
  143. rats
  144. reaction
  145. receptors
  146. regulates
  147. releases
  148. remember
  149. responds
  150. response
  151. restlessly
  152. result
  153. results
  154. reverse
  155. reversed
  156. rise
  157. sensitive
  158. series
  159. set
  160. showed
  161. shrink
  162. shrinking
  163. signals
  164. single
  165. situation
  166. size
  167. sleeping
  168. social
  169. speak
  170. sport
  171. stage
  172. stick
  173. stress
  174. stressed
  175. stressful
  176. structure
  177. surprising
  178. surroundings
  179. swapped
  180. synaptic
  181. takes
  182. time
  183. turned
  184. ways
  185. weakens
  186. weapons
  187. words
  188. worry
  189. wreak