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Failing Brakes: How the Brain Does (or Does Not) Respond to Stress

March 9th, 2009

At this point in the 21st century, medical science has taught us much about the human brain. However, doctors and scientists everywhere continue to unearth new knowledge with each passing day. Unsurprisingly, according to, a recent study has identified a new mechanism that may hinder the brain’s natural ability to respond to stress.

Normally, neurons in the hypothalamus, the stress center of the brain, receive signals that tell them to switch on or off, and they can only switch off if adequate levels of the protein KCC2 are maintained. However, according to new research, stress reduces the activity of KCC2, thereby removing the “brakes.” This inability of the brain to slow down might explain some of the negative consequences of stress.

According to Dr. Jaideep Bains, the university of Calgary scientist who presented this research, more work is still needed in this area before any new progress is made in the medical treatment of stress. However, these initial findings have made the medical community aware of emerging avenues for doing so. As with any study, we can only hope as our understanding is deepened, action will follow.


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