…and this goes for things that aren’t measured out in doses too. In this post, I will look at some studies regarding stress. Stress is something that we are usually seek to avoid and it seems completely sensible as well. However, studies show that stress may have some positive sides too. Evolution has fine tuned us to live within a certain range of various parameters and it isn’t good when we move out of them even if we move out of them on the arguably ‘good’ side.
We are constantly bombarded with studies that show how stress can do everything from reducing immunity to shortening lives among other deleterious effects. However, a recent study in Nature Communications “Early life stress in fathers improves behavioral flexibility in their offspring” points out that stress can also be a positive and interestingly, the effects can be seen across generations. The authors find that the pups of stressed male mice were more behaviorally flexible.
To create stress, the authors subjected the mice pups to unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress (MSUS) for two weeks. MSUS entails taking away the pups’ mothers at unpredictable intervals and subjecting their mothers to stressful situations, such as being placed in cramped tubes or in cups of cold water. The researchers then assessed behavioral flexibility in the pups by making them complete tasks that required them to follow rapidly changing rules to get water and food. They found that mice that had been stressed early in life outperformed controls. When the researchers bred males subjected to MSUS with wild-type females, the resulting offspring similarly excelled at behavioral flexibility. There are also studies that show acute stress can increase nerve growth. That may be related to why trauma can accelerate learning.
Other similar situations can be seen with ultra clean water. Ultra clean water from which minerals have been stripped out is less healthy than regular water and hard water has been associated with better cardiovascular health. Hygiene hypothesis posits that super clean environments have contributed to an increase in allergies as the immune system having nothing better to do, overreacts to the presence of ordinary objects like dust or dander.