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ISRN Physiology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 806104, 23 pages
Review Article

Brain Physiology and Pathophysiology in Mental Stress

Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA

Received 23 April 2013; Accepted 15 May 2013

Academic Editors: J. Cannon, Y. Ootsuka, and K. Sakuma

Copyright © 2013 Karim Alkadhi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Exposure to various forms of stress is a common daily occurrence in the lives of most individuals, with both positive and negative effects on brain function. The impact of stress is strongly influenced by the type and duration of the stressor. In its acute form, stress may be a necessary adaptive mechanism for survival and with only transient changes within the brain. However, severe and/or prolonged stress causes overactivation and dysregulation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis thus inflicting detrimental changes in the brain structure and function. Therefore, chronic stress is often considered a negative modulator of the cognitive functions including the learning and memory processes. Exposure to long-lasting stress diminishes health and increases vulnerability to mental disorders. In addition, stress exacerbates functional changes associated with various brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide an overview for neuroscientists who are seeking a concise account of the effects of stress on learning and memory and associated signal transduction mechanisms. This review discusses chronic mental stress and its detrimental effects on various aspects of brain functions including learning and memory, synaptic plasticity, and cognition-related signaling enabled via key signal transduction molecules.