Stress is a killer—at least for brain cells. A new animal study shows that a single socially stressful situation can destroy newly created neurons in the hippocampus, the brain region involved in memory and emotion.
Although most of the brain stops growing by adulthood, new nerve cells are continually generated in the hippocampus, where they are essential for learning. Scientists have long known that chronic stress can inhibit this neurogenesis and lead to depression. Daniel Peterson and his colleagues at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science wanted to find out how the brain reacted to just a single stressful episode.