2.8.10

Under Pressure



What do Baboon's and Civil Servants have in common? What's the difference between Oscar winning actors and actors who haven't won an Oscar and what links attachment, separation and vulnerability to stress?

Wired Magazine has just published a long but useful article on stress and the impact of chronic stress on human health. It gives a clear explanation of the biology of stress and outlines a range of different studies that have changed our understanding of stress and it's impact on health. It also provides an interesting overview of the scientific process: initial observation, the formulation of a hypothesis, collection of data and the testing of that hypothesis in field experiments, lab experiments, natural experiments and longitudinal studies. Of particular interest is the outline of Michael Marmot's Whitehall study and how the civil service is the human equivalent of a Baboon troop:

"The British civil service comes with one other feature that makes it ideal for studying the health effects of stress: It’s hierarchical, with a precise classification scheme for ranking employees (in other words, it’s the human equivalent of a baboon troop). At the bottom are messengers, porters, and security guards. Just above them are the clerical officers, followed by staff scientists and other professionals. This last group implements the policies dictated by powerful administrators who run the governmental agencies. Marmot wanted to investigate how differences in status “in people who are neither very poor nor very rich” might lead to measurable differences in health".

The article brings stress research bang up to date with Robert Sapolsky's work on a stress vaccine. Sapolsky is developing and testing a gene therapy for the negative effects of stress on the brain by modifying the herpes simplex virus to infect brain cells to protect them against the damaging effects of stress. This is a good example of how psychology is also an applied science: psychological research is not just about finding out interesting things about how the mind works and how it can influence basic biological processes, it's also about developing practical applications that can help people to deal with problems like the negative effects of stress.

Link to
Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine

2 comments:

熙又陽辰 said...

Learning makes a good man better and ill man worse.............................................................

子吳吳豪 said...

我從來不認為不同意我的看法就是冒犯................................................