New Delhi: Stress has been classified as contagious by a team of researchers – including one of Indian origin – who have said that the chances of one suffering from stress are higher if their partner is stressed.
The study conducted on mice also revealed that stress has the tendency to alter the brain on a cellular level.
"Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders and depression.
"Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be 'contagious'. Whether this has lasting consequences on the brain is not known," said Jaideep Bains, Professor, Physiology, and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary.
For the study, the research team analyzed the effects of stress in pairs of male and female mice. They removed one mouse from each pair and exposed it to a mild stress.
The researchers then examined the responses of a specific population of cells, specifically CRH neurons which control the brain's response to stress, in each mouse, which revealed that networks in the brains of both the stressed mouse and naive partner were altered in the same way.
The team discovered that the activation of these CRH (Corticotropin-releasing hormone) neurons cause the release of a chemical signal, an 'alarm pheromone', from the mouse that alerts the partner.
The partner who detects the signal can in turn alert additional members of the group.
This propagation of stress signals reveals a key mechanism for transmission of information that may be critical in the formation of social networks in various species, the researchers said.
The researchers also suggested that these findings may also be present in humans.
"We readily communicate our stress to others, sometimes without even knowing it. There is even evidence that some symptoms of stress can persist in the family and loved ones of individuals who suffer from PTSD, Bains noted.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
(With IANS inputs)