Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The other day, Idelle Davidson, my resident go to expert on all things ChemoBrain pointed me toward an article in Science Daily.  She noted that our brains often fail to notice key words that can change the whole meaning of a sentence.  Of course, I had to go check the story in the publication.  Instead, I was distracted... gee, big surprise there, huh?

"How Stress and Depression Can SHRINK the Brain" jumped right off the page.  I told my Bud that I'd see her key word and raise her stress shrinkage.  (Yes, Seinfeld.  Go ahead.  Laugh.  Get it out of your systems.  Yes, George.  We understand the concept.  Don't you worry.)

As I'm reading this article, I learned that the researchers have come to this conclusion: "Chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment."  The recent results of the Army of Women study at Stanford noted this loss of brain matter, too.  My challenged brain KNOWS this is all somehow connected.  A HAH! Another puzzle piece.

Stress.  I know that the medical community in CancerLand no longer uses the word stress.  It's a bad word.  Apparently, cancer is a bad enough word so they had to soften the sound of the S word.  By simply making it LONGER.  Distress. Personally, I need things simplified, not expanded upon but that's just me.  And, I don't need a shiny bow on "it is what it is."  Stress.  Distress.  Here's a case where words really don't matter.  In fact, there was a study a few weeks back about stress and bone metastasis.  I will have to find that link.

(Good luck with that, AnneMarie.... and.... How's all this new organization stuff working out for you?  Didn't think so....)

No matter HOW you slice it, stress is NOT good.  Stress needs to be managed.  There are plenty of tools for managing stress and I'm not going to go into a lecture about that except to mention what most of us already know.  The suggestions: Exercise, yoga, meditation, guided imagery, screaming, punching a wall, smashing a glass object to the floor (my personal, at the top of the list, ABSOLUTE favorite---in case anyone cares.....definitely glass smashing......love the sound, hate cleaning up the mess).

How damaging is stress?  Allow me to share this very ingenious infographic that was sent to me.  It's all there... including: Stress Shrinks The Brain. I can't afford to lose any more white matter, gray matter, any matter for that matter.....  And, a note to George Costanza.... Size matters but skill matters more.  With the brain issues.  Maybe other issues, too but I'm not going into the sophomoric gutter.  Instead, I'll go into my own memory bank of 500 Shades of Something.  Compare and contrast.  Size v. Skill.  Get back to me with your findings.  And many times, the picture tells a better story.  In case you are better with drawing than you might be with words.  Me?  I'm a stick figure artist so I'll stick with the keyboard.

OK.... can someone get the lasso and rope me back in here...... I've seem to gone adrift and I can't imagine what the hell took over my brain.... oh yes.... Seinfeld. Costanza. Shrinkage.  Damn it FOCUS already..... We are talking about shrinking brains.  Right.  Let's continue.  Shall we?

The content of the write up in Medical News Today which is one of the many news feeds that find their way into my computer--automatically---is copied below the Infographic.

A quick google search found this study cited in a number of places.  146,000 results in 0.31 seconds to be precise.  And the news is just breaking.  Those numbers will rise--there will be more results-- and on the flip side, those numbers will fall---the milliseconds will turn to nanoseconds.  The number of results and the amount of time.  Blame the Olympics on my new OCD issues surrounding how quickly a clock spins.....

Some of the links found in those milliseconds are at the bottom of the post.  I'm trying to figure out how to implant a google chip into my brain to have such extensive recall in less than one second.  The more info google has, the quicker it can retrieve it????  Hell.  It takes me three minutes to recall five words in a thirty word list that I was studying for two solid minutes.  According to Mr. Brain Age... mine is 80.  I think he's just trying to sell me a Nintendo DS.

Thanks to Sarah Wenger and her team for sharing this with me!  And now..... The picture please....... TaDA!

Master Your Stress

Created by: www.MastersDegreeOnline.org

For whatever it's worth.... in my book?  Skill wins. Every.Single.Time.  Just.Sayin'  dot dot dot

How Stress And Depression Can Shrink The Brain

Main Category: Depression
Also Included In: Anxiety / Stress;  Neurology / Neuroscience;  Genetics
Article Date: 13 Aug 2012 - 1:00 PDT

Major depression or chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. Now a team of researchers led by Yale scientists has discovered one reason why this occurs - a single genetic switch that triggers loss of brain connections in humans and depression in animal models. 

The findings, reported in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, show that the genetic switch known as a transcription factor represses the expression of several genes that are necessary for the formation of synaptic connections between brain cells, which in turn could contribute to loss of brain mass in the prefrontal cortex. 

"We wanted to test the idea that stress causes a loss of brain synapses in humans," said senior author Ronald Duman, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and professor of neurobiology and of pharmacology. "We show that circuits normally involved in emotion, as well as cognition, are disrupted when this single transcription factor is activated." 

The research team analyzed tissue of depressed and non-depressed patients donated from a brain bank and looked for different patterns of gene activation. The brains of patients who had been depressed exhibited lower levels of expression in genes that are required for the function and structure of brain synapses. Lead author and postdoctoral researcher H.J. Kang discovered that at least five of these genes could be regulated by a single transcription factor called GATA1. When the transcription factor was activated, rodents exhibited depressive-like symptoms, suggesting GATA1 plays a role not only in the loss of connections between neurons but also in symptoms of depression. 

Duman theorizes that genetic variations in GATA1 may one day help identify people at high risk for major depression or sensitivity to stress. 

"We hope that by enhancing synaptic connections, either with novel medications or behavioral therapy, we can develop more effective antidepressant therapies," Duman said.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Other Yale authors of the paper are Bhavya Voleti, Pawel Licznerski, Ashley Lepack, and Mounira Banasr.
Yale University

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

Yale University. "How Stress And Depression Can Shrink The Brain." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 13 Aug. 2012. Web.
13 Aug. 2012.
Yale University. (2012, August 13). "How Stress And Depression Can Shrink The Brain." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.

Other links to this study:

Yale News

Medical Daily

The Examiner (nice video, too!)

The Cutting Edge

AND, the $30.00 version which I'm not paying for.... Can anyone get me the abstract?


  1. Lou,

    I write a lot about stress and depression and we devote a couple of chapters to it in our book. This is an important finding but not at all surprising, considering other studies that show that meditation to reduce stress actually helps repair damaged brains. In one study out of Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, researchers discovered that brain regions linked to attention and sensory processing were thicker in subjects who meditated, documenting for the first time an association between brain structure and meditation (here's the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16272874).

    There are many other studies I could site that show that stress can literally suppress our immune systems. I'm glad you're writing about this. For good health, we all need to find ways to de-stress.

  2. And of course, that would be "cite," not "site." (-:

  3. My brain must be the size of a walnut by now! Somehow, I've missed that cancerland no longer uses the word "stress." I probably missed is because I've been distressed. Is there something that's politically incorrect about "stress?" Yikes!

  4. What Brenda said.....

    I had no idea that the medical lingo doesn't include "stress" anymore. Weird. I've been under too much of the S word lately and am getting acupuncture in a couple of weeks. Can't wait.

  5. I have not time to reply and I don't know WHERE my reply to Idelle went...... (I did write one).... I'm running late for a meeting.... BUT.... I will say I was in a meeting a few months back with Jimmie Holland and SHE talked about how the medical people (surgeons/oncologists) didn't like that word. There was a MESS of research to come up with "Distress" .... I'll find it.. Now.. gotta get the hell out of here... Yikes... didn't realize the time..VERY poor time management skills...

    OHH... and Beth.... I was talking about my "impulse" control and my pre-frontal lobe..... and what I did yesterday.... ;) Will spill later...


  6. I am going to copy the poster and hang it in my office, for all bosses to see, and move to France for the seven weeks off. It sounds like a "distressing" kind of vacation. I want to sit on one of those beautiful beaches and meditate. Feeling better already!!!

    1. :) I'll join you on one of those French beaches. In a heartbeat!

      Hope you are staying well, my dear friend... xoxox

  7. Link to the item about stress and metastasis to bone:


    1. Thanks, Rhonda!!!! It helps to have a whole gang hunting this stuff down. I am SURE I saved it somewhere on my computer.... I think I need an assistant to keep me organized. Yay chemobrain!

  8. I saw a similar version on ABC News the other night. It simply showed that some seniors (they didn't relate it to stress) had a 3% shrinkage of their cerebral cortex as compared with the active 85 year old who completes the NY Times crossword puzzle daily, ink.

    I love Beth's comment: what constitutes stress? My "stress" might be your challenge. In another way, my physical "fight or flight'" response might activate at the sound of a siren where it might not even register for someone else.

    Bottom line: knowing how to take of yourself - ALL of yourself - is good medicine.

    Thanks for posting,

  9. I believe that stress played a role in my cancer. The problem is that if you get cancer you get stressed out (or lets be politically doctor correct... distress!). That is why I think it is particularly difficult for those who get MBC since they are trying to avoid stress to live longer yet they have been handed the biggest stress (I mean distress) of their lives. I read the article in Science daily about bone metastisis and stress, but I hesitated from placing it in my breast cancer newspaper because I don't think it's productive to put blame on ourselves for getting cancer from stress. I love you posts because they bring up great questions and thoughts. Thanks for another great post!-Susan


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