Stress can make your brain grow
You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” That can be applied to stress, as studies have shown that short periods of stress can actually help the brain improve. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that after they placed rats in a short-term stressful situation (they were immobilized in their cage for a few hours), the experience doubled the growth of new brain cells. The rodents also did better on a memory test later on. “We think the same thing happens in people—manageable stress increases alertness and performance,” study author Daniela Kaufer, PhD, a professor of integrative biology, told Berkeley Wellness. “Moderate and short-lived stress—like an upcoming exam or preparing to deliver a speech in public—improves cognitive performance.” Check out some more popular myths about your brain that just aren’t true.
Stress can improve your memory
When your brain cells multiply, your memory can improve. Biologically speaking, it makes sense, because animals who are better at remembering dangerous situations can avoid them in the future, which is a classic example of survival of the fittest. “If an animal encounters a predator and manages to escape, it’s important to remember where and when that encounter happened,” Kaufer told Berkeley Wellness. Likewise, “if you’re walking down an alley and somebody threatens you, it’s important to remember exactly where you were in order to avoid that alley in the future. The brain is constantly responding to stress.” Results of an animal study from the State University of New York at Buffalo backs this up: After learning a maze, rodents who had been stressed remembered the way out quicker than those who were relaxed. So cramming for that test might actually work! Beware of these things that get way harder when you’re stressed.