Stress may harm brain - but it recovers
September 3rd, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Stress may harm brain - but it recovers

We all know stress is bad for you, but just how bad?

It would be unethical to intentionally subject people to extreme psychological duress in the name of science. But ongoing military operations offer opportunities to see what happens to people exposed to stressful situations.

Researchers in the Netherlands found the brains of soldiers who go into combat show impairment in function and structure upon returning, but that these effects largely go away over time.

The study
A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at 33 healthy Dutch soldiers deployed to Afghanistan for four months. It was the first military deployment for all of them, part of a NATO peacekeeping operation.

Researchers compared these participants to 26 soldiers who were never deployed.

The soldiers who were deployed experienced armed combat and exposure to enemy fire, as well as other common combat stressors. But this did not appear to aggravate stress symptoms; researchers did not find significant differences in post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and mood scores between the deployed and non-deployed groups.

But despite no apparent trends in psychological symptoms, the two groups of participants did display marked brain differences.

The combat group showed reduced functioning in the midbrain, as well as structural differences in that area. These soldiers who had gone to Afghanistan tended to perform worse on cognitive tests than those who were not deployed.


Those effects were seen less than two months after the soldiers returned from combat.

But a year and a half later, researchers found that the soldiers who had been deployed had, on average, returned to normal with respect to both brain structure and cognitive performance.

The combat group still showed some brain impairment: Imaging tests showed that there was less connectivity between particular brain regions among these soldiers than those who had not been deployed.

"Although there are some subtle changes, it doesn't really directly translate into impaired performance," said Guido van Wingen of the Brain Imaging Center in Amsterdam, who was the lead author of the study.

Although cognitive performance may suffer, a different brain function may be enhanced in soldiers with recent combat experience: vigilance. Previous research from van Wingen's group shows that the amygdala, a part of the brain important for detecting potential danger, has heightened activity in soldiers who have returned recently from combat. That effect also normalizes over time.

Study drawbacks

The sample size of the study began small, and got smaller over time. Nine people from the combat group and nine people from the non-deployed group did not complete the long-term follow-up.

Also, this study deals only with people from the Netherlands.


The research is too preliminary to make recommendations, van Wingen said.

But it makes sense that soldiers would benefit from time to recuperate in between deployments, so that the brain can re-adapt to a non-combat situation, he said.

Bottom line

"What the results collectively show is the brain is able to restore (itself) from the adverse effects of stress, if you give it at least enough time," van Wingen said.

More from the Chart: City stress may be bad for brain

soundoff (743 Responses)
  1. rv shades repair

    This site truly has all the information I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Video Marketing Program


    May 8, 2021 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Digital Marketing Experts


    May 8, 2021 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. priligy

    dapoxetine 30mg price priligy tablets for sale

    May 8, 2021 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Video Marketing Store

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Best wishes! Where are your contact details though?


    May 8, 2021 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. bus repair near me

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the highest quality websites on the net. I most certainly will recommend this website!


    May 8, 2021 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Social Media Marketing Job

    Good post. I certainly love this website. Stick with it!


    May 8, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Seo Marketing Consultant

    I love it when people get together and share thoughts. Great blog, stick with it!


    May 8, 2021 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Tires Riverside

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the net. I am going to recommend this website!


    May 8, 2021 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JebgEncox

    best drugstore lipstick https://pharmacylo.com/ drug rx

    May 9, 2021 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Digital Marketing Companies Near Me


    May 9, 2021 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Social Media Marketing Event


    May 9, 2021 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Internet Marketing California

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality blogs online. I most certainly will highly recommend this web site!


    May 9, 2021 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. AnooEncox

    pastilla parecido al viagra https://llviagra.com/ buying viagra bali

    May 9, 2021 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Google Marketing Specialists

    I really like it when individuals get together and share thoughts. Great site, continue the good work!


    May 9, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Content Marketing Quotes

    After exploring a handful of the articles on your web page, I truly appreciate your technique of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website too and let me know what you think.


    May 9, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Social Media Marketing Review


    May 9, 2021 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Seo Marketing Jobs


    May 9, 2021 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Local Marketing Programs


    May 9, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Generator Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Flooring Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Marna Levandoski

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a video game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these sl authors and blogs


    May 10, 2021 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Social Media Marketing Services Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering problems with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 10, 2021 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Content Marketing Company Orange County

    Greetings, I believe your website could be having internet browser compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful website!


    May 10, 2021 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Video Marketing Business

    This excellent website definitely has all the information I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 10, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Internet Marketing Mechanics


    May 10, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Local Marketing Companies Near Me


    May 10, 2021 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Social Media Marketing Company Cypress


    May 10, 2021 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Social Media Marketing Agency Near Me


    May 10, 2021 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Digital Marketing Quotes

    I used to be able to find good info from your blog articles.


    May 10, 2021 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Social Media Marketing Contractor

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying this information.


    May 11, 2021 at 02:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Digital Marketing Companies

    bookmarked!!, I like your blog!


    May 11, 2021 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Internet Marketing Job


    May 11, 2021 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Digital Marketing Service


    May 11, 2021 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Social Media Marketing Contractor

    Good blog post. I certainly love this site. Keep writing!


    May 11, 2021 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Social Media Marketing Contractor


    May 11, 2021 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Google Marketing Business

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your website!


    May 11, 2021 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Willis Lochrico

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though


    May 11, 2021 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. youtube casino slot machines videos

    I was recommended this web site through my cousin. I'm no longer positive whether or not this post is written by way of him as no one else
    understand such distinctive approximately
    my problem. You are amazing! Thanks!

    May 11, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. aftermarket body shop near me


    May 11, 2021 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mercedes Sprinter Start Error Fault Repair


    May 11, 2021 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. BbshMile

    diy viagra http://loxviagra.com/ poor mans viagra

    May 11, 2021 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. motorhome repair near me


    May 12, 2021 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. box truck repairs


    May 12, 2021 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Cabinet California


    May 12, 2021 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. dump truck paint schemes

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which too few people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this during my hunt for something concerning this.


    May 12, 2021 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. rv paint shops near me

    You should take part in a contest for one of the most useful websites on the web. I'm going to highly recommend this website!


    May 12, 2021 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. local rv repair shops

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday. It's always interesting to read through content from other writers and practice something from their websites.


    May 12, 2021 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Service Centers Near Me

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you book marked to check out new things you post…


    May 12, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RebfZisse

    order cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ buy cialis with paypal

    May 12, 2021 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.