When operating in survival mode, expelling large amounts of cortisol — commonly known as the stress hormone — can save your life. But staying in that state for too long — like what happens when we are constantly ruminating over an issue — can lead to life-threatening health issues such as significant weight gain or loss, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
A University of Iowa study has claimed to have discovered a possible link between stress hormones and adult short-term memory loss.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study revealed that having prolonged elevated levels of cortisol can result in memory gaps as we age.
Researchers linked high amounts of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain where short-term memory is stored.
Synapses are the connections that help us understand, store, and recall data.
When we grow older, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and eventually disappear.
Overall, researchers believe that stress hormones are one mechanism that leads to the eventual battering of the brain. While previous studies have shown cortisol to do the same in other regions of the aging brain, this was the first study to examine its impact on the pre-frontal cortex.
Although the findings are in the preliminary phase, they raise the possibility that a person’s short-memory decline may be slowed or