How stress remodels the brain?

Scientists unveiled molecular pathway behind stress-induced structural changes.


Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions. It affects not only memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety, but also promotes inflammation, which adversely affects heart health.

A new study, recently published in JNeurosci, suggests that Stress alters brain function by modifying the structure and function of neurons and astrocytes.

Astrocytes are the brain’s housekeepers tasked with mopping up neurotransmitters after they’ve been released into the synapse.

In this study, scientists showed that a single exposure to acute stress triggered a retraction of lateral/fine processes in mouse cerebellar astrocytes. Stress induces this change by halting the production of GluA1, an essential subunit of glutamate receptors.

During a stressful event, the stress hormone norepinephrine suppresses a molecular pathway that normally culminates in the protein synthesis of GluA1. Without functional GluA1 or glutamate receptors, neurons and astrocytes lose their ability to communicate with each other.

In other words, stress regulates GluA1 protein synthesis via profound ways in astrocytes and remodels their fine processes.

Journal Reference:
  1. Emotional stress induces structural plasticity in Bergmann glial cells via an AC5-CPEB3-GluA1 pathway. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0013-19.2020
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