Stress makes many of us miserable — but it can also kill you. Besides just causing horrible anxiety and depression, the physiological basis for stress has also been linked to diseases as varied as obesity, postpartum depression, Cushing's syndrome, epilepsy, and osteoporosis. But what if we could just turn your brain's stress response off?
Now, researchers from Tufts claim to have pinpointed the way that stress hormones hit specific receptors in your brain — and they've even been able to block them. This could lead to the next great psychopharmaceutical breakthrough.
The Tufts researchers discovered that stress pathways are activated by neurosteroids acting on corticotrophin-releasing hormone neurons in what's known as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. By blocking the synthesis of the neurosteroids, they stopped the elevation of corticosterone, and prevented anxiety in mice.
"We have identified a novel mechanism regulating the body's response to stress by determining that neurosteroids are required to mount the physiological response to stress. Moreover, we were able to completely block the physiological response to stress as well as prevent stress-induced anxiety," said author Jamie Maguire, PhD.
Now the team is focusing on modulating the neuroreceptors to treat some of the diseases that accompany stress — be they depression, anxiety, or epilepsy.