The appropriate amount of stress can have a startling impact on memory

The appropriate amount of stress can have a startling impact on memory
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Although experiencing emotional stress is never pleasant, doing it occasionally may help your short-term memory in the long run.

In a recent study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Georgia (UGA), more than 1,200 healthy young adults took part. The findings suggest that mental stress is only damaging when it reaches a certain threshold.

It appears to enhance working memory at relatively low and moderate levels.

A memory test was given to research participants that focused on naming particular things and persons. All the while, their brains were being scanned.
According to studies that looked back at the brain activity throughout the task, the region of the brain responsible for short-term memories, commonly known as working memory, displayed less activity among those people who reported higher levels of stress on a questionnaire.

While individuals who had recently experienced mild to moderate stress had their working memory activated more. Additionally, the memory test outcomes improved as activity levels rose.

Although the results don’t directly address stress levels or whether stress impacts working memory, they do provide some preliminary evidence of a possible connection.

According to the hormesis hypothesis, a toxicology-based theory, stress can have a positive or negative effect on a person’s capacity for thought, depending on how severe it is. Although the validity of hormesis has been contested in other fields, it is launching a brand-new field of research in psychology.


According to a 2006 study of just 20 healthy adults, working memory can be affected by psychosocial stress, but only when stress levels are relatively high. There is no influence if they are lower.

The findings suggest that external stress isn’t necessarily detrimental to how our brains function, but does it imply that it’s always advantageous?

Some scientists think it might be at very low levels.

The hormesis concept has only been specifically addressed in a small number of studies, but the early results are intriguing to consider.

According to research like the one we’re looking at right now, preconditioning is believed to aid animals in coping with stress. In other words, dealing with stress now will help someone deal with it later.

In fact, reducing stress may enhance an animal’s capacity for problem-solving and adaptive behavior.

Adult rats exposed to modest chronic stress had stronger working memory, according to studies.

According to numerous studies, low to moderate levels of stress are associated with advantages for memory even in our species.

Preconditioning is the mechanism behind an inoculation phase that stimulates the organism to modify, prepare, and behaviorally cope with subsequent stress more effectively, according to Assaf Oshri and colleagues, psychology researchers at UGA.

However, if a person’s mental or emotional strain exceeds what they are able to handle or persists for a prolonged length of time, stress may be dangerous. It can have an effect on a variety of health issues, including muscle tension, high blood pressure, heart disease, immune system issues, gastrointestinal abnormalities, decreased working memory, and many others.

It’s interesting to note that in the current study, participants who reported having a stronger social support network showed signs of being able to manage their stress levels.

As a result, assistance from family and friends may serve as a buffer against increasing stress and strain.

“Findings shown in the present experiment demonstrate the cognitive benefits of exposure to low-moderate stress levels,” the scientists write in their conclusion.

Future longitudinal studies should make it easier for us to comprehend how hormesis may explain how resilience and stress adaptation develop in people who live under stressful conditions.

The study was published in Neuropsychologia.

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