Stress, the senses, and mental health

Stress, the senses, and mental health


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New research by a team of scientists from the Department of Genetic Psychology, Ruhr University Bochum, northern Germany, points to a dual-activation hypothesis in epigenetic mechanisms.

Research has shown that long-term mental health effects caused by overstimulation may be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. The researchers at Ruhr University, including Vanessa Lux, research fellow at the Department, suggest that observed epigenetic programming effects are not the result of an overstimulated stress system alone. Their research shows that the sensory systems also contribute to epigenetic changes. This is what they have described as a dual-activation hypothesis, reported recently in the journal Current Genomics.

Lux explains: “According to our model, glucocorticoids prime the epigenetic machinery for change, while neural activation coordinates the programming mechanisms.” However, this neural activation is not only found in stress-related networks. Lux suggests that when a stressor is perceived, the sensory networks are also activated and may also be involved in these epigenetic changes, reports EurekAlert.

The team found, on the basis of available data, that early life stress alters epigenetic regulation of stress-related genes through two pathways – neural activity and glucocorticoid exposure. “This is not really a surprise. Stress is perceived through the senses. The more difficult question is, what epigenetic modifications are established in the sensory networks by the stressors, and how [does] this impact mental health later in life?” Lux added.

Source: EurekAlert


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