Modest levels of stress hormone boost learning: study

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Washington, Mar 17 (UNI) A little bit of stress may not harm you, but may boost your learning power, according to a new study.

Chicago researchers have found in a survey that stress-related hormone influences learning in ground squirrels.

Jill Mateo, Assistant Professor in Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago, discovered that while performing normal tasks, ground squirrels learnt quickly if they had a modest amount of cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress, than those with either high or low levels of cortisol.

In humans, cortisol production is also related to stress and is known to have an impact on learning, she added.

The study was published online in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

''We know almost nothing about the neurobiological implications of these treatments on cognitive development of children,'' Sciencedaily quoted her as saying.

Animal studies have shown that these treatments can have negative effects on brain development, she said.

Little is known about the impact of low cortisol on learning among humans. Pregnant women who are exposed to stress, such as those tested after directly experiencing the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and had significantly lower cortisol two years later, as did their babies, she pointed out.

The animal tests also help to understand the potential human impact of low cortisol on learning, she concluded.

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