Surprising Finding: Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

Friday, 19 Apr 2013 10:32 AM

By Nick Tate

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Here’s a switch: Some stress may actually be good for you.
 
So say researchers from the University of California-Berkeley who have found that some types of acute stress — short-lived, not chronic — prime the brain for improved performance of some tasks.
 
Lead researcher Daniela Kaufer noted long-term chronic stress can cause major health problems, but acute stress generates new nerve cells in the brain that can help you learn better by preparing the brain for improved cognitive and mental performance.
 
"You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it's not," said Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at UC-Berkeley. "Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance."

Special: How One Deck of Cards Has Shown to Improve Memory.
 
Kaufer’s findings, published in the online journal eLife, are based on studies of rats that showed brief stressful events caused stem cells in their brains to grow into new nerve cells that improved the rats' mental performance.

"I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert," she said.
 
"I think the ultimate message is an optimistic one. Stress can be something that makes you better, but it is a question of how much, how long, and how you interpret or perceive it."

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