Stress may be shrinking your brain it turns out

Well this is a bit stressful. A new study published in Neurology links cognitive decline and impaired memory later in life. Plus, stress may literally be shrinking the size of your brain. Permission to have a freak out now.

The study looked at over 2,000 healthy, middle age people and found that those who had higher levels of the hormone cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) tended to perform worse on memory tests and had a smaller brain volume compared to those with normal levels of it. And the researchers tended to see this more with women.

However, it should be noted that the authors of the study want to emphasize that stress does not cause brain damage. “Right now all we can say is A is associated with B, we can’t really say anything about causality,” says Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and senior author on the study.

The issue is your brain is especially vulnerable as compared to other organs, says K eith Fargo, who directs scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association. “The brain is a very hungry organ. It requires an outsized amount of nutrients and oxygen to keep it healthy and functioning properly. So, when the body needs those resources to deal with stress, there’s less to go around to the brain.”

This is a little alarming but on the other hand you can have your shrunken head costume all ready for next Halloween.