How does stress damage the brain (if at all)? Is it akin to taking drugs, heavy drinking, or a minor stroke?

Would an fMRI of a stressed person present evidence of stress?

  • $\begingroup$ good question, are you referring to day to day stress, or extreme cases, such as from combat? Or both? $\endgroup$
    – user3554
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Damien: I was thinking about day-to-day stress, but any related information would be appreciated. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


There is little evidence that stress affects structural MRI (reduction in the volume of the hippocampus). The review article (Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition Lupien et al., 2009) synthesizes the current knowledge in the field. Another article might be of interest (MRI measurement of hippocampal volume in post-traumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis).

If you are interested in functional MRI and day-to-day stress, even less is known. The study (Perfusion functional MRI reveals cerebral blood flow pattern under psychological stress) shows that ventral RPFC (right prefrontal cortex) activation is specifically associated with psychological stress, and this activity persists even beyond the stress-task period.


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