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Stress is Both a Boon and a Bane to Your Brain

A bit of fear can give you an edge, making you more sensitive to your external surroundings as a means of detecting threats. But this can at the same time also interfere with your ability to do more complex thinking.

The subjects of a study, faced with the possibility of receiving an unpleasant electric shock, showed enhanced activity in brain circuits responsible for taking in visual information. But they also displayed a muted signal in circuitry responsible for evaluating that information.

According to Science Daily:

"The shift in electrical activity in the brain ... may be the first biological description of a paradox in experimental psychology. It has long been known that imminent danger can enhance the ability to detect faint stimuli in the environment, such as the crackle of a leaf signaling the approach of a predator. But it is equally clear that the stress and anxiety aroused by a threat can profoundly disrupt the ability to think clearly and perform more complex 'executive' tasks."

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