How Stress Gets Under the Skin: Q&A With Neuroscientist Bruce McEwen


A professor of neuroscience at Rockefeller University, Bruce McEwen investigates how stress affects the mind and brain.

What are some common misconceptions about stress?I’ll start with several pet peeves: that all stress is bad for you and that cortisol [a stress hormone] is bad for you because it’s easy to measure as a marker of stress. These stress systems were put there to help the body adapt and survive. They have a good side and a bad side.That’s the essence of [what I have labeled] allostatic load:  these systems, which help us adapt and survive can also cause problems when they are overused. [That idea] gets away from the use of the word stress, but when we talk about stress, there’s good stress and toxic stress.

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