Stress: Why do some handle it better than others?

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An area of the brain involved in the regulation of emotions is linked to how we react in a stressful situation.

Our daily lives are invaded by stressful events: at work, on the news, while traveling, at home. However, the willingness to cope with and survive this stress varies from one person to another. Our various reactions were the subject of a study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) and led by Rajita Sinha, director of the Yale Stress Center in the United States.

The researcher and her colleagues analyzed how the brain looks when faced with stressful situations to better understand what makes our behavior different. Thus, they showed around sixty scary images, as well as neutral images, to a group of 30 volunteers, as they observed their brains through a scanner for six minutes. They were then asked questions about how they dealt with stress (alcohol, food, anger, irritability).

Manage the emotions involved

The scientists noted that an area of the brain involved in regulating emotions and sensing your internal state, such as hunger and desire, was also linked to snacking, alcohol consumption, and a destructive reaction to stress. People who show more brain plasticity, the ability of neurons to change throughout life, in this area seem to react more calmly.

More research is needed to understand how we can increase flexibility in parts of the brain, say the study authors. But this first discovery marks an important step in understanding resilience and the stress coping process.

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