Feeling Un-'Glu'ed

Scientists show why stress affects our motor abilities, thinking processes

(RxWiki News) A study out of New Orleans shows how a stressful situation can affect the part of the brain responsible for motor functions and learning, the cerebellum, and identify an important receptor named GluR2.

The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls movement, learning and memory formation. A study conducted at Louisiana State University in New Orleans exposed mice to the odor of a predator for five minutes and found that brain receptors in the cerebellum were increased and the "cerebellar circuit" was jump-started.

Changes in this particular part of the brain are linked to a specific receptor subunit called GluR2. This subunit has also been shown to play a huge part in learning processes and other brain conditions such as addiction, epilepsy, and stroke. Its entire function, however, is not understood.

Humans learn how to respond after stressful situations by adapting their brain cells and keeping a mental inventory, of sorts. This is called "synaptic plasticity," the ability for a brain cell or synapse (brain cell connections) to change in response to experience and history.

Dr. S. June Liu, PhD, of LSU, suggests that "emotional stress could affect motor coordination and other cerebellum-dependent cognitive functions." Further research is necessary to understand more fully how the GluR2 receptor subunit works in patients with motor disabilities, addiction, post-traumatic stress and stroke.

Review Date: 
January 14, 2011