Myelin is responsible for conducting electrical signals through nerve cells in the brain. Myelin is produced by cells known as oligodendrocytes – which increase in number as a result of chronic stress. Daniela Kaufer, from the University of California/Berkeley (California, USA), and colleagues completed a set of experiments that reveals that chronic stress generates more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal. This results in an excess of myelin – and thus, white matter – in some areas of the brain, which the researchers suspect disrupts the delicate balance and timing of communication within the brain. The study authors submit that their data presents a “novel model in which stress may alter hippocampal function by promoting oligodendrogenesis, thereby altering the cellular composition and white matter structure.”
S Chetty, A R Friedman, K Taravosh-Lahn, E D Kirby, C Mirescu, et al. “Stress and glucocorticoids promote oligodendrogenesis in the adult hippocampus.” Molecular Psychiatry, 11 February 2014.
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