Difference in Stress Response Linked to Brain Activities

September 17, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. resilient / rɪˈzɪl yənt / (adj.) – able to easily recover from stress
Example: People who exercise are more resilient to stress.

2. maim /meɪm/ (v.) – to seriously injure a person
Example: The accident maimed everyone in the car.

3. cope /koʊp/ (v.) – to deal with something difficult
Example: She copes with stress through meditation.

4. destructive /dɪˈstrʌk tɪv/ (adj.) – tending to cause harm
Example: His destructive behavior caused him to lose his job.

5. keep one’s head / kip wʌns hɛd / (idiom) – to stay calm under pressure
Example: The new employee keeps his head under stress and submits his outputs on time.


Read the text below.
Research shows that brain adaptation is the reason for the resilient response to stress.

Dr. Rajita Sinha and Dr. Donaju Seo from the Yale Stress Center conducted a study to find out why some people are more resilient to stress.

Thirty healthy participants were tested for their research. The researchers used a brain scanning machine called functional magnetic resonance [REZ-uh-nuh ns] imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of the participants. During the six-minute test, they were shown ten pictures per minute.

Stressful images like people being shot, maimed, stabbed, or chased were first used. Next, participants were shown images of neutral [NOO-truh l] things like tables, chairs, and lamps. While they were being scanned, their vital signs, such as heart rate and levels of stress hormones, were checked as well.

During the period of stress, the study showed that an area of the brain—the ventral medial prefrontal cortex [VEN-truh l MEE-dee-uh l pree-FRUHN-tl KAWR-teks]—showed activities which the scientists referred to as neuroflexibility. This part of the brain helped predict which of the participants would be more resilient to stress.

After the scanning, the participants were asked about how they cope with stress. Those who did not show neuroflexibility in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex said they usually resorted to destructive behavior under stress, such as excessive drinking, emotional eating, and being involved in arguments. Meanwhile, those with higher levels of neuroflexibility were most likely to keep their heads under stress, based on their answers.

Stress is inevitable in life; thus, Dr. Sinha advises people to reverse the effects of stress through exercise and meditation. Reducing stress can also decrease the chances of acquiring serious health problems such as depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How can one reverse the effects of stress?
·         How can stress affect us physically and physiologically?

Discussion B

·         What do you think are the common reasons for being stressed?
·         Aside from regular exercise and meditation, how else can people cope with stress?

September 17, 2016