This is Your Hippocampus on Cortisol

A maze photo.
Whether navigating a maze or other obstacles, decreasing stress will help.

Research published by  Dr. Joyce Yau et al. in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this year examined whether negative effects of cortisol on memory could be blocked using antagonists for brain receptors for cortisol.

The researchers noted that  local brain amplification of glucocorticoids (cortisol)  by 11beta-hydroxysteriod dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) is “pivotal” in age-related memory loss.

Cortisol acts by binding to cell receptors. In their research, Yau and colleagues found that when levels of cortisol are low, a particular cortisol receptor is bound. However, at higher concentrations, cortisol has a spillover effect and binds a second receptor. Binding to this second receptor activates cellular processes in the brain that cause memory impairment.

The  receptors studied were the high-affinity mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and low-affinity glucocorticoid receptor (GR). As models for memory impairment, they used aged C57BL/6J mice as controls. Also studied were 11beta-HSD1-deficient mice (-/-), which ordinarily show no age-related memory deficits. Mouse memory was tested with a spatial memory task, a Y maze. Continue reading “This is Your Hippocampus on Cortisol”