The Chemistry of Performance Stress

Introduction

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Stress can affect a life in many different ways.  Not everyone reacts to stress the same way.  The body releases certain chemicals that help the person to react to the stressor fast and effective.  I chose to study the process in the body while under stress because as a high school student it seems we have the a lot of stress in life.  Whether it comes from family, school, friends, work, or even sports as a high school student we tend to have stress.  My life is affected by stress everyday.  Usually during golf season is when the most stress builds up.  Having all the experience and the pressure that I’ve gone through has helped me perform with ice in my veins.   


Composition of ...
  • The stressor

  • The Informational Processing and Perception of the Stressor

  • The Stress Response and Its Effect on Our System

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The Stressor

Anything that causes stress. EX: Finals, sports, or life.

The Informational Processing and Perception of the Stressor

The Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (HPA) is activated
The HPA is responsible for giving you “butterflies” in your stomach

The Stress Response and Its Effect on Our System

The HPA releases steroid hormones (glucocorticoids) including the primary stress hormone cortisol
Cortisol is important in organizing systems throughout the body to deal with stress
The HPA also releases certain neurotransmitters called catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine)
Catecholamines activate an area inside the brain called the amygdala, which triggers an emotional response to stress situations
The brain releases neuropeptide S which is a small protein that modulates stress by decreasing sleep and increasing alertness
When under stress catecholamines suppress activity in the brain related with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought
This sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly
During the same time neurotransmitters signal the hippocampus to store stressful moment in long-term memory

Effects on the heart, lungs, and cirulation

Heart rate and blood pressure increases
Breathing becomes rapid and lungs take in more oxygen
Spleen discharges red and white blood cells allowing blood to move more oxygen around the body

Effects in the mouth and throat

Fluids are diverted from mouth and throat
Causes dryness and difficulty talking
Stress can cause spasms of the throat muscles making it difficult to swallow

Metabolic response to stress

Stress shuts down digestive activity

Chemistry's Role

Chemicals are released throughout body causing the body to react the way it does.

Background Research

When the body is put under stress the part of the brain called “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal” or HPA is activated.  The HPA releases steroid hormones including the primary stress hormone cortisol. The HPA also releases neurotransmitters called amygdala.  The brain also releases neuropeptide a small protein that modulates stress by decreasing sleep and increasing alertness and a sense of anxiety.  When a person is put under stress catecholamines contribute to short term memory loss.  Although at the same time neurotransmitters signal the hippocampus to store the event in the long term memory part of the brain.  The stress response is triggered when the adrenals glands, located on top of the kidneys, receive distress messages from the brain.  Once the distress messages are received the adrenals release adrenalin and cortisol, two hormones that cause “fight or flight.”  Also a chemical called serotonin acts as a buffer against stress allowing the person to perform in challenging situations.  In women, their serotonin levels are much lower.  They have only 25% of serotonin that men have.  Due to the lower amount of serotonin women tend to have more stress in their lives than men do. Some stress is healthy and a necessity in life. When under stress the body releases norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that is needed to create new memories.  Stress may seem like one of the worst things to have to deal with but in reality it keeps us healthy.

Resources

HPA

HPA releases neurotransmitters


Stress triggers adrenals

Adrenals release adrenalin and cortisol


Body releases norepinephrine

Norepinephrine creates new memories


Everyone inherits certain ability to cope with stress

Under stress you lose sleep, have aches and pains, and lack of enjoyment of life


Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone synthesized from cholesterol by enzymes of the cytochrome

Cortisol weakens the immune response


3 types of stress

Routine stress, stress brought about by a sudden negative change, traumatic stress


Informational processing and perception of the stressor

Stress response and its effect on our system



About the Author

Sean Benson is a junior at Billings Senior High.  He has learned to like chemistry as the year moved on.  Sean is apart of National Honors Society and is on the Honor Roll.  He has lettered in golf the past 2 years and is working hard on putting up a picture with his team in the trophy case.


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