You spend weeks studying for an important test.
On the big day, you wait nervously as your teacher hands it out.
当被要求定义 ‘心平气和’时 你努力思考
You’re working your way through,when you’re asked to define ‘ataraxia.’
You know you’ve seen it before,but your mind goes blank.
What just happened?
The answer lies in the complex relationship between stress and memory.
There are many types and degrees of stress
and different kinds of memory,
but we’re going to focus on how short-term stress
impacts your memory for facts.
To start, it helps to understand how this kind of memory works.
你的所读 所闻 或所学
Facts you read, hear, or study
become memories through a process with three main steps.
First comes acquisition: the moment you encounter a new piece of information.
Each sensory experareas activates a unique set of brain areas.
In order to become lasting memories,
these sensory experiences have to be consolidated by the hippocampus,
influenced by the amygdala,
which emphasizes experiences associated with strong emotions.
The hippocampus then encodes memories,
probably by strengthening synaptic connections
stimulated during the original sensory experience.
Once memory has been encoded,
it can be remembered or retrieved later.
Memories are stored all over the brain,
and it’s likely the prefrontal cortexthat signals for their retrieval.
So how does stress affect each of these stages?
In the first two stages,
moderate stress can actually help experiences enter your memory.
Your brain responds to stressful stimuli
by releasing hormones known as corticosteroids,
which activate a process of threat-detection
and threat-response in the amygdala.
The amygdala prompts your hippocampus
to consolidate the stress-inducing experience into a memory.
Meanwhile, the flood of corticosteroids from stress
stimulates your hippocampus, also prompting memory consolidation.
But even though some stress can be helpful,
extreme and chronic stress can have the opposite effect.
Researchers have tested this by injecting rats
directly with stress hormones.
As they gradually increased the dose of corticosteroids,
the rats’ performance on memory tests increased at first,
but dropped off at higher doses.
In humans, we see a similar positive effect with moderate stress.
But that only appears when the stress
is related to the memory task –
so while time pressure might help you memorize a list,
having a friend scare you will not.
And the weeks, months, or even years
of sustained corticosteroids
that result from chronic stress
can damage the hippocampus
and decrease your ability to form new memories.
It would be nice
if some stress also helped us remember facts,
but unfortunately, the opposite is true.
The act of remembering relies on the prefrontal cortex,
which governs thought, attention, and reasoning.
When corticoamygdala stimulate the amygdala,
the amygdala inhibits, or lessens the activity of,
the prefrontal cortex.
The reason for this inhibition
is so the fight/flight/freeze response
在危险情况下 对较慢 更合理的思维
can overrule slower, more reasoned thought
in a dangerous situation.
But that can also have the unfortunate effect
of making your mind go blank during a test.
And then the act of trying to remember
can itself be a stressor,
leading to a vicious cycle of more corticosteroid release
and an even smaller chance of remembering.
So what can you do to turn stress to your advantage
and stay calm and collected when it matters the most?
首先 若你知道紧张情况临近 比如考试
First, if you know a stressful situation like a test is coming,
try preparing in conditions similarto the stressful environment.
Novelty can be a stressor.
Completing practice questions under time pressure,
or seated at acouch rather than on a couch,
can make your stress response to these circumstances
less sensitive during the test itself.
Exercise is another useful tool.
Increasing your heart and breathing rate
is linked to chemical changes in your brain
that help reduce anxiety and increase your sense of well-being.
Regular exercise is also widely thought to improve sleeping patterns,
which comes in handy the night before a test.
And on the actual test day,
try taking deep breaths
to counteract your body’s flight/fight/freeze response.
Deep breathing exercises have shown
measurable reduction in test anxiety in groups
ranging from third graders to nursing students.
So the next time you find your mind going blank
at a critical moment,
做几次深呼吸 直到想起 “心平气和”
take a few deep breaths until you remember ataraxia:
a state of calmness, free from anxiety.