Global Peace Initiative

Stress impairs the brain, negatively impacts behavior

Brain functioning and overall brain development are a function of age, education, genetics, and environmental factors, such as stress.

Prefrontal cortex

Advanced brain imaging technology (SPECT) shows the impact of traumatic and acute stress on the brain. The “functional holes” seen in the prefrontal cortex (right) represent areas of severe brain dysfunction.

Stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex, diverting blood flow from the higher brain to the primitive, or reactive, brain—a primal defense mechanism known as the “fight-or- flight response.” Unfortunately, under chronic stress, which is increasingly endemic in the world today, the prefrontal cortex shuts down and fails to develop properly. The underdevelopment and/or underutilization of the prefrontal cortex is a fundamental cause of the pervasive violence in society today.

Traumatic stress also leads to hyperstimulation of the amygdala, a condition seen in millions of military combatants and an increasing number of civilians suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Such stressed individuals experience chronic fear, perceive threats where none exist, and tend to respond accordingly. More