Psychology Magazine

How Stress Focuses Brain Integration

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
From Wang et al.(open source, with good graphics):
Despite the prevalence of stress, how brains reconfigure their multilevel, hierarchical functional organization in response to acute stress remains unclear. We examined changes in brain networks after social stress using whole-brain resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) by extending our recently published nested-spectral partition method, which quantified the functional balance between network segregation and integration. Acute stress was found to shift the brain into a more integrated and less segregated state, especially in frontal-temporal regions. Stress also stabilized brain states by reducing the variability of dynamic transition between segregated and integrated states. Transition frequency was associated with the change of cortisol, and transition variability was correlated with cognitive control. Our results show that brain networks tend to be more integrated and less variable after acute stress, possibly to enable efficient coping.

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