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Get out of the pressure

Weizmann Institute of Science scientists discovered: how the body deals with stressful situations, which cause anxiety, depression and anorexia

Alon Chen and his lab team. Photo: Weizmann Institute
Alon Chen and his lab team. Photo: Weizmann Institute

How exactly does the body recover after responding to a transient stress situation? Dr. Alon Chen from the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, examined whether "relatives" of the CRF protein, known to be the main responsible for activating the chain of events associated with dealing with stressful situations, cooperate with it. His latest research focused on the question of whether proteins called urocotin 1, 2 and 3 - are responsible for turning off the reaction.

To try to test the hypothesis, Dr. Chen and his group members - research student Adi Neufeld-Cohen, Dr. Michael Tzuri, Dimitri Getschalter and laboratory technician Shush Gil - created transgenic mice, which do not produce the three urocortin proteins, and tested the anxiety levels that these mice Demonstrators before and after exposure to a stressor, compared to normal mice. The results of the experiment showed that before exposure to a stressor, there was no difference between the behavior of the transgenic mice and the normal mice. In another test, which was done immediately after the exposure to the anxiety factor, there was still no difference in the behavior of the mice: both types showed clear signs of distress, as expected. The surprise came in a third test, which was done 24 hours after the exposure: while the control mice completely recovered from the traumatic event and returned to exhibiting normal behavior, the transgenic mice maintained the same levels of anxiety that they showed immediately after being exposed to the stressor.

The scientists concluded that the urocortin proteins are responsible for returning to a normal life routine, but how exactly do they turn off the anxious response? To try to identify the mechanism of action of the urocortin proteins, the scientists tested the degree of expression of a series of known genes involved in controlling the response to distress situations - such as, for example, receptors for serotonin and dopamine - in the amygdala, an area of ​​the brain associated with fear and anxiety reactions. In the transgenic mice there were no differences in the gene expression pattern before and after exposure to the stressor. In the control mice, on the other hand, large differences were found between the degree of expression of the genes before exposure to the stressor, compared to their degree of expression 24 hours later. In other words, the genetic program responsible for returning the body to normal cannot be implemented in the transgenic mice, in which the urocortin system does not work. The study was recently published in the scientific journal "Records of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA" (PNAS).

Dr. Chen: "Our findings indicate the central place of the urocortin system in regulating the response to stressful situations, and its important role in the process of recovery from stressful situations - related to diseases such as anxiety, depression and anorexia. The transgenic mice we created in this study will serve as an efficient and convenient model - for us and for other researchers - to understand these serious diseases."

4 תגובות

  1. There is no need to speculate about the future of psychology, today we are already witnessing the split trends in psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic approach when one group supports the adoption of the scientific approach while the other moves away from science and even denies the ability of the scientific approach to test its theory and practice - just like religion.
    In Israel the second approach, which denies science, is strong and widespread compared to other countries.

  2. A small note regarding the terms in Hebrew that usually do not transfer well from English in topics such as anxiety and stress. This article talks about a response to stress situations and the proteins in question are the so-called stress proteins. The equivalent in plants, by the way, is distress situations (the fact that we don't hear trees doesn't mean they aren't crying out for help). The word pressure is better left for the physical property (eg air pressure). Apart from that, this is a fascinating study that may have far-reaching consequences for understanding the mechanism of the response to stressful situations and the management and control of anxiety.

    To 1

    There is still a place for psychology and this is because psychology is in some ways what neurobiology does not yet know how to explain and there is no good reason to assume that it will not do so in the future. It will be interesting to see if in the future the vague theories of psychology will be replaced by the world. Judging by the continued existence of religion as a vague system of explanations with many internal contradictions and this despite severe contradictions with scientific facts, I tend to assume that psychology will exist with us for many more years (even if its principles find their way into fields with other names such as coaching for example).

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