Stress And The Brain: JaimeTartar at TEDxNSU

Stress And The Brain: JaimeTartar at TEDxNSU

Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Denise RQ OK, so the title of my talk is “Stress and the brain:
the good, the bad, and the misunderstood.” Another title that I could have given
the talk is “In defense of stress,” because we all talk about stress
as if it were a bad thing, but the point of this series
is to inspire you so I’d like to inspire you. Millions of years of evolution
have ensured that your stress system does exactly
what it’s supposed to do. It works perfectly. You’re the problem. (Laughter) I’m going to show you why
you’re the problem. So stress and why it matters. The first thing that we need to do, and we’re going to have
kind of a fun lecture, but just get a little bit of biology
out of the way, quick and dirty. When we have a stressor,
the first thing that happens is we have a fight or flight response. This happens immediately. There’s this part of your brain,
very deep down, the locus coeruleus, he’s going
to tell your adrenal gland, “Ahh! I’m getting eaten by a tiger,
release epinephrine.” If you’re in Europe,
you can call it adrenaline; it’s the same chemical, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to release adrenaline. The sympathetic nervous system
does a very good job of doing what we in college
like to refer to as the four Fs: fight, flight, fright, and sex. (Laughter) These are the four things that it does. It’s going to keep you alive
whether you like it or not, no conscious choice here. Or keep you alive in the future. This system acts very, very quickly. A little bit later on, we get
this sort of slower acting system. This little part of our brain up here,
the hypothalamus, which is really the CEO
of all of the hormones in your body. The hypothalamus is going to say,
“Oh my god, we’re stressed.” He’s going to tell the pituitary gland,
“Hey, release this other hormone, ACTH.” ACTH is going to fall down, and then he is also going to tell
the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, the same place that squirts out
all that epinephrine, he’s going to say, “Release cortisol,”
and we’ve all heard about cortisol. Cortisol makes you fat.
Cortisol does horrible things to you. Oh, we hate cortisol. But cortisol keeps you alive. If there’s a tiger who’s going to come
eat you, cortisol will keep you alive. So the problem isn’t cortisol, the problem is
the dysregulation of cortisol. What cortisol does, then, is it’s going
to go back up to all those places who originally released it, and it’s going to say, “Whoa, slow down.” The major place in our body that binds
cortisol is the hippocampus. So you listened to Matt’s talk, we all know
what the hippocampus does, right? It’s important for? Memory! It’s also important for cortisol. And all those cortisol receptors
are in the hippocampus, and it binds to the hippocampus
and it says, “Hey… stop.” But if you have too much
cortisol being released, the cells can’t handle it
and they just die, like, “Oh, we can’t handle it,
we’re going to die.” And they kill themselves. (Laughter) And then you get more cortisol released,
you have even less cells to handle it, you see what’s happening here? And so the HPA,
the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal gland, this axis just sort of spurts
out of control. OK, and this is
where some of the problems arise. This can happen acutely,
or this can happen chronically, right? You get stressed,
this stuff happens to you. You get stressed over
and over and over again, it’s this idea of chronic stress. But it turns out we have
2 different ways of responding to stress. We do have this
biological process that occurs, the sympathetic nervous system
and the HPA axis, but then in our brains,
we’re going to respond differently to different types of stress
in slightly different ways. And the major way of differentiating those is between physical stress
and psychological stress. So the difference
between getting eaten by a tiger – there were some real pictures,
but it wasn’t pleasant – (Laughter) or this. OK. Or, if you’re Ryan Gosling,
you might be stressed because your picture’s all over
the Internet these days. (Laughter) OK, we all have these kinds of stressors. And as my colleague alluded to earlier, it’s very stressful not to be able
to use copyrighted images, so I wanted to give you
this [basic–] Oops. What is stress? So stress for us
isn’t getting eaten by a tiger. Our body is ready to respond to that,
it’s ready to respond to starvation. It’s very, very well adapted to responding to someone wanting
to punch you in the face, someone trying to steal your meat. It does a very good job of that, but what we’ve experienced
is daily life hassles. That’s really our stress. And does this happen acutely, or does this happen all the time,
multiple times a day? I wanted to give you an example,
and I couldn’t use copyrighted images so I’m going to tell you
the things that stress me, but I imagine that you have some
of the same things going on in your life. So the first thing that stresses me
are my colleagues. (Laughter) They make me nuts. (Laughter) Except the ones who are here,
they’re wonderful. (Laughter) OK, my bosses, who are not here tonight, make me crazy. So I imagine you have bosses
who give you stress too for different reasons. He may look nice. He scares me. (Laughter) This guy used to be a hostage negotiator,
and now he’s my boss. (Laughter) And evidently, I’m kind of glad to hear
so many of the presenters tonight get stressed by students
texting in their class, because it’s one of the major things
that stresses me out, because I’m trying to lecture and no one’s paying attention
to what I’m saying, and I think it’s very important,
and I have theory of mind, so I’m thinking about what they’re talking
about and thinking about and texting, and I’m not thinking about
what I should be thinking about; it’s awful. It’s a whole thing, then I start
to shake and leave the classroom. So you can imagine looking out at this,
trying to talk and educate young minds and this is what you see. (Laughter) My husband. (Laughter) We’re working on it. (Laughter) My children. They’re twins, and they’re five. It’s not that my husband and children
are enough to drive me crazy, but they have a dog. (Laughter) It’s their dog. It’s my source of stress. OK, so you get the idea. These are probably
the same types of things that are happening to all of us every day,
multiple times a day. So it’s not just that it happens
to some people, and it doesn’t happen to other people. Some people are more at risk of succumbing
to some of the health consequences of all of these things. So these are the kind of things
that are going to put you at risk; keeping in mind, this is what your stress
response system has evolved to do; this is what it’s really doing, right?
Dealing with all of these things. So the things that are going to kill you,
basically, is unremitting stress. It turns out, it’s not just
unremitting stress. If you really want to kill somebody,
you don’t want to use pharmacology, you don’t want to go to jail. The good way to do it is
unremitting, unpredictable stress. So if I wanted to kill my husband – and I don’t, he’s a wonderful person
and a biologist, but if I did – if I went in every day,
and I punched him in the face at 2 pm, every day I go and punch him
in the face at 2 pm, what’s going to happen,
is he going to get really stressed? He might divorce me. Is he going to get
really, really stressed? No, because what’s going to happen? He’s going to say, “Oh, I know she’s
going to come punch me in the face.” So what you really want to do is you want to give somebody stress,
but they don’t know it’s going to happen and it’s never ending;
that’s the good stuff. (Laughter) So one of the worst things
you can do for yourself, one of the worst careers you can do – and I’m sorry if you do this – is long-term care givers. These guys are in a host of trouble. You never know if Johnny’s going to have
a good day, a bad day, you can’t control what’s happening. This is awful for your health;
make your aunt do it. Don’t be that guy. OK, so the inability to adjust to stress. And this is me; I’m a high-responder rat. And you know who these people are too. These are the people
who just react to everything, right? My boss yells at me, I freak out. My colleague said,
“Oh, you were late today,” and I’m worried about it. Everything gives us
increased heart rate very easily. This is not a good way to live your life. (Laughter) The other thing is reactivation to stress, and you know who you are, and you know
who these other people are because they don’t leave you alone. These are the people
who something happens to them, “My boss yells at me,”
then I go home like, “Oh my god, you’re not going to believe
what my boss did, he yelled at me.” I say the whole thing, then I call my ten closest friends
and tell them what happened, and every time I do this
I’m reactivating that same HPA axis. I don’t need the tiger to bite me. I can make that stuff happen
just by thinking about it. And the last thing is-
I guess these would be the psychopaths. So a blunted HPA activation. It’s also not good
to not respond to stress at all. You need a little bit of stress
to respond. So we don’t want our HPA axes
to get dysregulated. We don’t want to die of stress.
We want to live healthy lives. So I know you’re really
depressed right now. (Laughter) So the good news is: because the source of stress for us
is in our heads, we’re making it up. No one’s punching us in the face.
Nobody’s starving us. We’re all living long
and healthy lives, hopefully. All the stress that we have
is coming from here. It’s processive; it’s psychological. It’s that kind of stress
that we’re constantly thinking about. So the good news is you
won’t die from stress, maybe, if I show you the next few slides. You are in control of your stress. OK, so I’m going to give you
some human displacement activities. This is what we do for animals
in stress labs, when we want them
not to succumb to stress, and as human animals,
we can do the same things. OK, the first thing you could do
is psychotherapy. It’s a lot of work,
but it has been demonstrated that psychotherapy does produce
genuine, real changes in that neuroplasticity in your brain; it just takes a long time to do it, but if you do it, you can get
real changes in your brain. Exercise, believe it or not. Exercise does a very good job at relieving
some of the symptoms of stress. You can read an enlightening book. These are things
that have been clinically demonstrated to relieve the consequences of stress. You can have good social support, like our nice presenter here,
Leanne Boucher. You could have good sleep hygiene. This may include – I study sleep too – this may include
taking a nap during the day. That’s OK, you can do that. Or whatever works for you. This is my colleague, Jason Gershman,
who likes to race cars, and that’s a great way
for him to relieve his stress. The other thing
that I wanted to talk to you about, if those things didn’t work for you, there’s a lot of really cool
research right now coming out of one particular lab
at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, this professor Richard Davidson, and some of the things
that he’s shown in his lab, he’s actually gotten the Dalai Lama
and Tibetan monks to come in and he’s looked at their brains. And what he’s demonstrated is – and these monks, they actually show
real differences in their EEGs – so some of the brain waves
that we associate with higher processing, high mental function, seem to be much higher in the monks
than they are in controls. And some of the brain regions
that we associate with love, understanding, and empathy, the insula and the left pre-frontal cortex
seem to be more activated. These monks tend to do
compassion meditation, but I’m guessing this would work
for all forms of meditation. They even trained regular guys
like you and me to do meditation, and we can show these changes,
so this is very cool. The hard part is, I should tell you, that these monks
had 10,000 hours of training, so it did take a long time. But if you’re willing to do it,
you can just be happy like a monk, do some meditating. If that doesn’t work for you,
you can always take Prozac. (Laughter) Better living through chemistry,
as Dr. Ray said. Whereas going to therapy
takes a long time, therapy would be the analogy
of going to the gym. We all want big muscles.
We all want to be healthy. We all want to look great. But if you go to the gym,
it takes a long time to get big muscles, look great,
and have a great cardiovascular health. If I gave you a pill
that could do all of those things… come on. (Laughter) So this sort of does
what psychotherapy does. Dr. Ray will tell you
if there’s consequences to it. So the good news is, remember I told you, when you have
all those super high levels of cortisol, it kills those hippocampal cells? Well, it turns out –
and the dirty secret behind Prozac, and Dr. Ray, I’m sorry,
is that we have no idea how it works. No clue. No clue. If I give you Prozac, your serotonin levels are going
to be pretty high right away, but when are you going
to start to feel better? This is what the pharmacologists
don’t want you to know. We don’t know
how most of this stuff really works. It takes a while to feel better, but it turns out one of the mechanisms
by which it may be working is increasing new neurons
in the hippocampus. You get increased neurogenesis
in the hippocampus. So it might be that as cortisol goes up, starts to destroy
those hippocampal neurons, you have fewer hippocampal neurons, and you get into the cascade that one researcher calls
the glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis; when you give somebody Prozac,
it may increase the amount of neurons and help to restore some
of the functioning of the hippocampus. So Prozac does increase
neurogenesis in the hippocampus. And if you block neurogenesis
in the hippocampus, you also block
the behavioral effects of Prozac. So that’s sort of interesting. It’s new research
so we’ll see where it goes. So I’d say the bottom line today
is to keep in mind your stress system is fine,
it’s working properly. It wants to keep you alive. It wants to keep you alive
for the next five minutes. It doesn’t care
if you’re going to live to 100. So I would say try to do
all of those things. Recognize that you’re in control
of how stressed you become. And that’s all I have for you. Hopefully you have a new beginning. Thank you. (Applause)

46 Replies to “Stress And The Brain: JaimeTartar at TEDxNSU”

  1. Really good until she mentioned Prozac! I thought smart people knew that Prozac is no better than placebo, ie works by placebo effect only.

  2. Ends talk with an advertisement for prozac TED ,why have you not had talks on medical cannabis ,losing credibility anyone?

  3. This really was an amazing video. I constantly wonder why stress has become such common a problem when their are so few "tigers" to run from in our society. I most often notice how irrational my own stress is only as a reaction to the cortisol boost. I liked how you took the time to address ways to take a preventative approach.

  4. Totally stupid speech laughing all the time like an idiot i lost 9 minutes to watch this crap and the more things he said is totally not understandable by people who havent got english for their first language the worst speech i saw on TEDx.
    If i was your husband i would had killed you allready and guess what that would not be by STRESS that would be by "natural causes"!

  5. lol she was my psychology professor…  u have 2 get used to her attitude, it's pretty unique lol but she's awesome all in all 

  6. I THINK SHE IS GREAT ! i love the fact, she says , stress is not the prob, we are !! what a new way to look at this issue !
    i love the personal approach she takes , on explaining things
    i shared this on my FB
    and gave it a thumbs up !!!

  7. This kettle of fish, like electric eels trying to increase voltage generating capacity in their collective "think tanks", what better way to do this but set off alarm bells in the Central Nervous System by crossing lines, real or imagined. First put a lid over a tub  (their "feel tank" we can call it) and let the human eels wriggle and writhe in the dark (naturally resulting in sex and violence in pursuit of sparks and heat, driven by "feel"), then threaten to pull the lid off and expose their actions all of a sudden. To induce even more sympathetic shocks to the system. Even the thought alone of getting "caught red handed" and with "your pants down" is enough to prompt the Central Nervous System to overdrive.  Just by threatening to release or reproduce captured light (image technology otherwise known as photographs or video) into the larger body of society – signifying visual representations of an individuals transgressions or "lines crossed" (oldest transgressions would be of a sexual nature, but any old crime would do) to deliver blows straight through the visual cortex into the deepest regions of the brain (to damage single individuals, or entire communities). Why not go straight into the deepest recesses of the mind where dreams and fantasies play out, and find a way to visually represent those brain activities? Bad Brains indeed

  8. I would love to have Jaime as a lecturer! So much fun. This cascade hypothesis is interesting I will have to follow it. If I can maybe interject slightly and fight the corner of Psychology, Psychotherapy doesn't take a long time (and is possibly best represented by a picture of Albert Ellis 🙂 ), there is much evidence for, and the style / duration of therapy may be directly dependent on the person's difficulty. Plus, the person carries this adaptation forward, whereas with a feel-good drug the effect may only last as long as they take it. A mixture of both sometimes is best.

  9. "If you really wanna kill somebody, you don't wanna use pharmacology, you don't wanna go to jail, the good way to do it is unremitting, unpredictable stress."

    I believe the word for that is marriage

  10. Cmon, how about educating yourself about human psychology and your own thinking habits, way of thinking, body functions and in the process become more conscious and balanced emotionaly human being. Self-therapy, What is even the purpouse of this whole presentation, oh well to sell prozac maybe. Meditation is cool though, but our thinking and lack of understandment of thing is the core of all similar neurosis. Like chronic excessive self-accelerated level of stress, I think.

  11. I don't get it! How did this lady got to give a TED talk ? There is no content or quality of information. Any second year med student can give a better presentation.

  12. Managed to carry on watching and ignoring her irritating laugh but then found her recommendation of prozac quite disconcerting. Not even hard evidence just "it may do this". Not good.

  13. Because the stress of having to jog again tops all the others. While finishing the jog leaves me so wiped out, I literally have to lie down, but upon rising, I finally know I can handle this, therefore I can handle the rest of the day's dilemmas. I also see the time shortening (after 4 months) in how long it takes me to circle the park; proof I am getting stronger. Now I have the energy to walk longer than many when at the Fair and enjoy events without tired old body dragging me down. #1 health improved after giving up all grains and all but 25 grams of real sugar daily without any artificial sweetners other than Stevia in moderation. Artificial sweetners are as bad on our good flora as taking antibiotics when they are not really needed to survive infection.

  14. My co-worker takes Prozac. It's for life. If she stop using it, her body will shake, ache, and has negative thoughts. Do not make pharmaceutical companies rich by being their lifetime patients.

  15. I’m going to tell this and this from a position of authority, but I believe the earth has existed for billions of years even though science dictates otherwise; so you shouldn’t take me seriously.

    What are plutonium halos?

  16. Hmmm …if our bodies are so perfectly made to handle stress, there’d be no Addison’s Disease, or CPTSD, or inflammation levels so high (57) that it wouldn’t be shutting my organs down. That’d mean I don’t have
    >2 years left before I be leave my babies motherless. cool…

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