Science finally has an answer for why emotional stress shows physical symptoms

A new brain circuit has been discovered by researchers, which can give better insight into treating stress-related disorders in the future.
emotional exhaustion
The findings of this new study can be a boon for people suffering from PTSD. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
ANI Updated: 4 May 2020, 18:19 pm IST
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Have you ever noticed how your body reacts when you are emotionally charged up? Yes, we are talking about the palpitations and the sweating. In fact, this recent study throws some light on the physical response of our body to emotional stress. 

Published in the journal Science, the study points to a neural circuit that drives physical responses to emotional stress. This circuit could be a key target for treating stress-related disorders such as panic disorder and PTSD.

Emotional stress activates different parts of our brain which lead to this physical response
Emotional stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to physical responses, such as a rise in blood pressure and body temperature and a faster heart rate. Such responses are thought to be coping mechanisms to boost physical performance in fight-or-flight situations.

emotional health
Don’t ignore your emotional health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

But when you are stressed all the time, these responses can have an adverse effect on their health. In fact, excessive stress may cause symptoms such as psychogenic fever, a condition of abnormally high body temperature.

Now to treat these stress-induced symptoms, the neural mechanism behind the physical responses to stress had to be understood. To this end, a research team led by Professor Kazuhiro Nakamura and Designated Assistant Professor Naoya Kataoka, of the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, conducted a study in which tracers were injected into the brains of rats, who were subjected to a stressful event.

This finding is a ray of hope for people suffering from mental disorders
The tracers showed that the DP/DTT brain areas were highly active when exposed to stress. To further examine the role these brain areas have in stress response, the researchers impaired the areas’ connections to the hypothalamus and again exposed the rats to the same stress.

The rats did not exhibit any stress-induced physical response, neither a rise in blood pressure nor body temperature or faster heart rate.

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This study demonstrates that the DP/DTT areas together are responsible for sending stress signals to the hypothalamus, and that blocking the DP/DTT-to-hypothalamus circuit can result in a reduction of stress symptoms in rats.

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Summing up the research result, Professor Nakamura said, “The DP/DTT are parts of the brain that are involved in processing emotion and stress. The DP/DTT-to-hypothalamus pathway we discovered, therefore, represents a brain mechanism for a ‘mind-body connection,’ which can be a potential target for treating stress-related disorders such as panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and psychogenic fever.”

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