Life without stress is difficult. Pandemics, climate change, and rising costs of living have left people feeling anxious and Mental health concerns are on the rise in recent years.
Scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve resilience to stress. Some turn to humble mice for help.
rat citydocumentary from the nature of thingstakes viewers on a wild ride into the secret world of brown rats and may teach you a few lessons about managing stress.
Chronic stress affects us physically and mentally
It turns out that rats and humans respond to stress quite similar. Behavioral neuroscientist Kelly Lambert runs a lab with domesticated rats at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
“Their brains generally have all the same parts as ours,” said Lambert. “They all have the same neurochemicals, so it’s a good place to start.”
When humans are stressed, our bodies flood with the stress hormone cortisol. In rats, that hormone is corticosterone. This is a natural defense we share when faced with danger, triggering the classic fight-or-flight response. It may adversely affect physical and mental health.
chronic stress is increase the risk of development Mental health disorders such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and anxiety. “If you interpret everything as incredibly threatening, you wear the system down,” says Lambert. “Stress is so important that we need to learn more about it.”
Effort-Based Rewards May Improve Our Mental State
Our brains swim in neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which have a profound effect on our behavior and mood. I wondered if I could make a change and improve my resilience to stress in the process.
Lambert and her team divided the rats into two groups and gave them their favorite food: fruit loops cereal. the only difference? One group had to work for the Fruit Loop and dig up nesting material to find the reward. A second group did not have to lift a leg to receive the sweet snack.
When the two groups were tested with new experiences such as swimming, the “worker rats” were bolder and more exploratory. showed more coping capacity.
Scientists also found that working mice have lower levels of stress hormones. Playing active and challenging roles in the environment helped the brains of working mice.
The team wondered if activities with “effort-based rewards” such as knitting, gardening, baking, and woodworking could have the same effect in humans by increasing dopamine while decreasing stress hormones.
Put the rat in the driver’s seat – literally
Like us, rats get stressed when they lose control of their lives. Lambert literally wanted to know what would happen if he put a rat in the driver’s seat.
She put her lab rats in a small driving school and trained them in small plastic vehicles called ROVs, or rodent-operated vehicles. For their efforts, the rats were rewarded with fruit loops.
“One of the things we’ve learned about stress is the unpredictability, the uncertainty, and that’s what brings stress to our lives,” said Lambert. Making the impossible, especially if it’s negative and unpredictable, also leads to chronic stress…”
Driving not only lowered corticosterone levels in the rats, but also increased a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which increases resilience to stress. The more the rat drives the car, A higher ratio of DHEA to corticosterone“We think it provides a buffer against this cortisol toxicity,” said Lambert.
“Humans, perhaps when stressed, [go] for the drive,” she said.
Control improves your ability to cope with stress
Being actively involved with our world can benefit brain health. And that could be more important than ever, says Lambert. “In a world with all our advanced technology, we are likely less involved in the physical world and more involved in the electronic or digital world, but it is the same engagement for the brain. I don’t know if there is,” she said. “So we have to be careful about what we are evolving into. may give you
Lambert and her team continue to work with their rodent colleagues in this emerging area of brain research, investigating behaviors that help the brain better handle stress.One day, this work Leads to treatment of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.
So maybe it’s time to pick up a hobby, learn a new skill, or play in the country. We may not get fruit loops for our efforts, but we will probably be more relaxed.
clock rat city upon the nature of things.