A study recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that stressful life events can lead to shrinkage of the brain due to reductions in gray matter in regions connected to physiological and emotional functions. The study used brain imaging on 103 people who had previously experience traumatic or stressful life events such as divorce, death of a loved one, or natural disasters and found that these individuals had lower than average amounts of gray matter in parts of the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for self control, emotion regulation, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Study researcher Emily Ansell, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University found that “the accumulation of stressful life events may make it more challenging for these individuals to deal with future stress, particularly if the next demanding event requires effortful control, emotion regulation, or integrated social processing to overcome it,” and warned that changes in gray matter in the brain could contribute to future psychiatric problems.
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