The Neurobiology of Stress Management and Enhanced Brain Functioning
Facilitator: Lisa Lukianoff, Pys.D.
This workshop will provide a presentation and understanding of the neurobiological stress response activated in the brain in response to stressful situations. Participants will learn skills to better self-regulate this neurobiological process and the negative effects of stress, which will enhance their brain performance. This presentation will explain the adrenal system function, how activation of the limbic region affects emotions, the role of the amygdala during fight-or-flight stimuli, the function of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and increased cortisol levels during prolonged stress.
Role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis
During exposure to stress, the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis acts as a regulator, both influenced by and provide feedback to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands. The HPA function is a primary aspect of the neuroendocrine system in the stress response cycle, including bodily regulation of digestion, the immune system, emotions and moods, sexuality and the inflow and outflow of energy. It serves as a central mechanism for the complex interactions of hormones, glands, and parts of the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). The HPA axis combined with corticosteroids produces the physiological response to stress. (Lange C, Zschucke E, Ising M, Uhr M, Bermpohl F, Adli M., 2013).
HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system
The autonomic nervous system (ANS), the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the neural circuits in the hypothalamus, brainstem and forebrain work collaboratively to coordinate a response to stress.
The ANS responds to stress by activating neurons to stimulate release of adrenaline and noradrenalin (norepinephrine) which causes an increase in heart rate and vasoconstriction.
The HPA responds to stress by activating the hypothalamus to stimulate the corticotropin releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin. High levels of corticotropin releasing hormone is associated with major depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Arginine vasopressin restricts blood vessels. These combined responses stimulate the anterior pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone which activates the Glucocorticoids synthesis. This functions primarily to mobilize energy stores during stress.
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