Long-term stress erodes memory, and the immune system plays a key role in this cognitive impairment, according to research published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
This research in mice might one day lead to treatment for those who experience repeated, sustained mental assault, such as bullying victims, soldiers, and those who report to detestable bosses, according to researchers from Ohio State University.
“This is chronic stress. It’s not just the stress of giving a talk or meeting someone new,” Jonathan Godbout, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at Ohio State, said in a statement.
This is the first study of its kind establishing a relationship between short-term memory and lasting stress, building on previous research finding evidence of connections between chronic stress and anxiety.
In order to examine the relationship between memory and a type of stress called “repeated social defeat” (RSD), the researchers tested how well mice could recall the location of an escape hole in a maze they’d already mastered after they were exposed to an aggressive intruder mouse. This dominance by an alpha mouse was meant to mimic chronic psychosocial stress experienced by humans.
The mice that were repeatedly exposed to the aggressive intruder had a difficult time remembering the location of the escape hole — the researchers found that the stressed mice had spatial memory problems that resolved after 28 days.
“The stressed mice didn’t recall it. The mice that weren’t stressed, they really remembered it,” Dr Godbout said.