Having compromised sensory abilities can be very stressful and that in turn can impede rehabilitation or further development. Creating a climate of understanding conducive to sensory learning is thus of paramount importance.

Read the entire article at: http://neurosciencenews.com/stress-learning-senses-5942/

“Stress is part of our everyday lives – while some thrive on it, it makes others sick. But what does stress do to our senses?

When we train them, we can sharpen our senses thereby improve our perceptual performance. The stress hormone cortisol completely blocks this important ability. In the current issue of “Psychoneuroendocrinology” neuroscientists of the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) report on this finding.

“Previous research has already shown that stress can prevent the retrieval of memories. But now we have discovered that it also has a major effect on our perception and perceptual learning,” explains Dr Hubert Dinse, one of the authors of the study.

No learning effect after cortisol

The placebo group improved their tactile acuity, as expected, by about 15 percent. In contrast, the cortisol given to the other group blocked almost all the stimulation-induced improvement. Cognitive psychologist Prof Dr Oliver T. Wolf explains:” Our data show that a single dose of cortisol not only disrupts memory in the hippocampus, but it also has a substantial effect on the plasticity of sensory areas of the brain.”

Cortisol blocks synaptic connections

In previous studies on a cellular level, neuroscientists have demonstrated that cortisol suppresses the strengthening of synaptic connections, and therefore the plasticity of the brain – its ability to learn. The team led by Hubert Dinse therefore suggests, their results could also explain by cortisol-induced suppression of synaptic plasticity.

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