May 18, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Neuroendocrinology filter: Suggested readings on the affects of chronic stress on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the amygdala?

I've always assumed that my half-a-dozen physical and mental health conditions were unrelated, but lately as I've been digging into their respective root causes I've begun to suspect that they actually all share a single underlying root causes: a chronic stress-fueled vicious cycle in which my adrenals and amygdala have been aggravating each other until neither works properly anymore.

I want to understand how this system works, as well as be able to read and understand journal articles on the topic (since some of the connections seem to still be in the territory of cutting-edge research and not established medical canon yet), but I'm starting from the background of a layperson who is frankly a bit of a science dummy.

I'm willing to put in the effort to learn this stuff from scratch and to slog my way through journal articles with the aid of a medical dictionary and some reference textbooks. But I could really use some help knowing where I should start in terms of background reading and which reference works would be the most useful in helping me look up and understand unfamiliar terms and concepts as I encounter them in the journal articles?

posted by Jacqueline to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
For background reading, how about Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky.

You could also get some good background understanding by watching Sapolsky's behavioral biology class on Youtube (happily, he is funny both on paper and on video).

I hear this Esther Sternberg book is good too; she studies this subject at the NIH.
posted by hungrytiger at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2011

I wrote a short paper about this subject starting from a similar level of knowledge to yours. Below are some resources that helped me.

I found Scientific American to be a good starting place. Here are some articles from my bibliography (I wrote the paper 5 years ago so you may find more recent articles out there now):

Englert, Hermann. 2004. Sussing out stress. Sci. Am. Mind. 1:1. This was my starting point.

Sapolsky, Robert. 2003. Taming Stress. Sci. Am. 289:3.

Gage, Fred H. 2003. Brain, repair yourself. Sci. Am. 289:3.

You can use the bibliographies from Scientific American articles to move on to articles in scholarly journals.

This is a good article focused more on depression:

Lopez, Juan. 2000. The Neurobiology of Depression.

Here are some books which helped me:

LeDoux, Joseph. 1996. The Emotional Brain. Simon and Schuster, NY. This has a good discussion of long-term potentiation and its relation to chronic stress.

Barondes, Samuel H. 2003. Better Than Prozac: Catching the Next Generation of Psychiatric Drugs. Oxford University Press, NY. This book looks at how present (and future) antidepressants (might) work. In doing so it goes over some of the biology of chronic stress and depression.

A good online video related to this is The Biology of Depression: How Stress Affects the Brain and the Body.
posted by hijol at 7:32 PM on May 18, 2011

Seconding The Emotional Brain. It is a great place to start learning more about the amygdala (which LeDoux himself has said doesn't even really exist [as a unified entity. I think the existence of the 12 {or 13, depending who you as} distinct nuclei of the amygdaloid complex is pretty roundly accepted]).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:59 PM on May 18, 2011

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