Stress hormone linked to short-term memory loss

Remain calm! This is an interesting article about how cortisol is found to reduce our short term memory.  One more reminder to practice meditation, remember to breath, laugh and smile in the face of life’s daily challenges.  This is sometimes easier said than done depending on what life challenge is facing you in a given moment, but it is definitely a baseline worth striving for.

Stress hormone linked to short-term memory loss as we age, animal study suggests.

A new study at the University of Iowa reports a potential link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss in older adults.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, reveals that having high levels of cortisol — a natural hormone in our body whose levels surge when we are stressed — can lead to memory lapses as we age.

Short-term increases in cortisol are critical for survival. They promote coping and help us respond to life’s challenges by making us more alert and able to think on our feet. But abnormally high or prolonged spikes in cortisol — like what happens when we are dealing with long-term stress — can lead to negative consequences that numerous bodies of research have shown to include digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain and high blood pressure.

In this study, the UI researchers linked elevated amounts of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help us process, store and recall information. And when we get older, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear.

“Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain,” Jason Radley, assistant professor in psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the paper. Like a rock on the shoreline, after years and years it will eventually break down and disappear.

While previous studies have shown cortisol to produce similar effects in other regions of the aging brain, this was the first study to examine its impact on the prefrontal cortex.

And although preliminary, the findings raise the possibility that short-memory decline in aging adults may be slowed or prevented by treatments that decrease levels of cortisol in susceptible individuals, says Radley. That could mean treating people who have naturally high levels of cortisol — such as those who are depressed — or those who experience repeated, long-term stress due to traumatic life events like the death of a loved one.

According to Radley and Rachel Anderson, the paper’s lead author and a second year-graduate student in psychology at the UI, short-term memory lapses related to cortisol start around age 65. That’s about the equivalent of 21 month-old rats, which the pair studied to make their discovery.

The UI scientists compared the elderly rats to four-month old rats, which are roughly the same age as a 20 year-old person. The young and elderly groups were then separated further according to whether the rats had naturally high or naturally low levels of corticosterone — the hormone comparable to cortisol in humans.

The researchers subsequently placed the rats in a T-shaped maze that required them to use their short-term memory. In order to receive a treat, they needed to recall which direction they had turned at the top of the T just 30, 60 or 120 seconds ago and then turn the opposite way each time they ran the maze.

Though memory declined across all groups as the time rats waited before running the maze again increased, older rats with high corticosterone levels consistently performed the worst. They chose the correct direction only 58 percent of the time, compared to their older peers with low corticosterone levels who chose it 80 percent of the time.

When researchers took tissue samples from the rats’ prefrontal cortexes and examined them under a microscope, they found the poor performers had smaller and 20 percent fewer synapses than all other groups, indicating memory loss.

In contrast, older rats with low corticosterone levels showed little memory loss and ran the maze nearly as well as the younger rats, who were not affected by any level of corticosterone — low or high.

Still, researchers say it’s important to remember that stress hormones are only one of a host of factors when it comes to mental decline and memory loss as we age.

Andrew Birnie a graduate student in neuroscience; Norah Koblesky, a 2014 alumna majoring in psychology and biology; and Sara Romig-Martin, a research assistant in psychology are contributing authors.

Journal Reference: Anderson et al. Aging and HPA Status Predict Prefrontal Deficits. J. Neurosci., 34(25):8387%u2013 8397; 2014

Acupuncture Controls Overactive Bladder

I have treated several patients over the past year with bladder issues.  I have formed an alliance with a physical therapist who treats many people with problems like interstitial cystitis.  She sends people to me occasionally for additional support.  Chinese medicine and Western medicine overlap on this treatment for overactive bladder.  The tibial nerve runs along the area of the inner shin where the points mentioned in the article below are located.  Stimulation of this nerve is said to help an overactive bladder.  In practice, I have found that sometimes it works well and other times, it does not have a lasting effect.


Researchers have discovered that acupuncture is effective for controlling overactive bladder syndrome. The research team, a combination of Whipps Cross University Hospital and University College of London Hospital investigators, document that 79% of patients in the study showed clinically significant improvements. Acupoint CV4 is depicted in this image along with othe abdominal points. The researchers conclude that acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for patients with overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) and “is well tolerated with no side effects or complications.” As a result, the research team notes that acupuncture “should be considered as a potential alternative to our current therapeutic regimes” for patients with OAB.

Overactive bladder syndrome is a dysfunction of the bladder’s storage abilities that lead to a sudden urge to urinate. Symptoms include a sudden urge to urinate that is often difficult to control, involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence), frequent urination (greater than 8 times per day) and waking at night 2 or more times to urinate (nocturia). Etiology varies and may include dysfunction of the kidneys, bladder nerve signals and muscle activity. Contributing and exacerbating factors of OAB include multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, increased fluid intake, kidney and bladder organic disorders, diabetes, pharmaceutical medications and illicit drugs, urinary infections, enlarged prostate and increased consumption of caffeinated beverages.

The researchers note that acupuncture is safe and effective. All patients in the study had already tried conventional approaches to care: behavioral modifications and pharmaceutical medications including anticholinergics and beta agonists. Although surgical procedures are often part of conventional treatment regimes of care for OAB sufferers, all candidates were pre-surgical. The research team notes, “The aim of the study is to assess if acupuncture is effective in the treatment of patients with OAB in whom conservative measures and oral medications have failed, but are unwilling or unsuitable for invasive therapies.”

This study focused on three acupuncture points. This protocolized approach is common in scientific investigations and varies from standard clinical practice in which customization of the acupuncture point prescription is applied for specific diagnostic considerations. Despite the limitations of a standardized set of acupuncture points across all patients in the study, 79% of all patients showed significant clinical improvements. In a real-life situation, a licensed acupuncturist has the ability to adjust the protocol to meet the specific individual needs of the patients. As a result, a licensed acupuncturist can potentially exceed the success rate achieved in this protocolized approach to care.

Acupuncture was applied at a rate of once per week for a total of 10 weeks. Each acupuncture treatment session was 30 minutes in length. Acupuncture points SP6, CV4 (RN4) and KI3 were applied. SP6 and KI3 were needled bilaterally on the lower leg and ankle. CV6 (RN4) was needled on the midline and is depicted in the image at top of the article. The researchers note that the study began with the use of traditional manual acupuncture and later electroacupuncture was applied to the needles. Urodynamic studies and evaluations confirm that this regime of care is both safe and effective for the treatment of overactive bladder syndrome.

The researchers note that acupuncture has several benefits. It can be used for patients who cannot tolerate medications, acupuncture does not cause the adverse effects associated with OAB medications, acupuncture demonstrated efficacy where medications and behavioral therapy failed and acupuncture may avert the need for surgery as a corrective measure. Acupuncture provides an effective option to patients who have tried medications without success. In this way, acupuncture can potentially reduce the number of patients requiring surgery for OAB.



Philp T, Shah PJR, Worth PHL. “Acupuncture in the treatment of bladder instability.” British Journal of Urology 1988 Jun: 61(6); 490-493.

Acupuncture & Herbs Enhance Fertility Treatments Finding

Studies find acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to be helpful in treating infertility and endometriosis.

Doctors with expertise in reproductive medicine have recently published that acupuncture and herbs are useful in the treatment of infertility, complications related to childbirth and for several other gynecological concerns. The doctors cited research stating that acupuncture and herbal medicine improve the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Pregnancy rates are improved in subfertile women undergoing IVF and in women with PCOS wherein ovulation may be restored using acupuncture. Image of a pregnant women. In the latter, acupuncture is noted as a treatment option for both reproductive issues and endocrine disturbances for women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

The medical doctors creating this report are specialists in reproductive medicine and endocrinology and are from Penn State University College of Medicine (Hershey, Pennsylvania), University of Gothenburg (Sweden), Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine (Harbin, China) and the University of Hong Kong. The doctors cite research showing that combining Chinese herbal medicine with conventional biomedicine demonstrates effectiveness in preventing miscarriages. They note that more research is needed on this aspect of integrated medicine given the nearly 40,000 pieces of literature recently reviewed on the topic.

The doctors note that clinical studies show the efficaciousness of acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese herbal medicine enemas and microwave physiotherapy for the treatment of endometriosis. They write that these therapies are effective in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, improving pregnancy rates and that these therapies can physically shrink adnexal masses. The doctors note that these therapeutic approaches have additional benefits over “standard hormonal and surgical treatments” for the treatment of endometriosis. They note that herbs, Chinese herbal enemas and acupuncture have significantly fewer “unpleasant side effects.”

The doctor report cites research showing the efficacy of complementary medicine “for women with genital infection.” In particular, they cite success in the treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervicitis, vaginitis and vulvitis. At HealthCMi, we have extensive online acupuncture continuing education courses on these important topics.

The report cites a meta-analysis of 87 papers published between 2002 and 2012. The study finds acupuncture effective in the treatment of labor pain and for the treatment of postpartum complications. Acupuncture was also found effective in inducing uterine contractions and shortening the birthing process.

The report calls for continued research on acupuncture, herbal medicine and other forms of complementary medicine for the treatment of human reproductive issues. The doctors note that randomized controlled trials reported in the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials format are especially helpful in that they facilitate meta-analyses.

In related reproductive medicine research, the success rate of IVF is 24% (for 4 or more embryos transferred) as a standalone biomedical therapy. Combining IVF with acupuncture was found to increase the success rate to 42.5%. The researchers comment that acupuncture is safe and economical way to assist women undergoing fertility treatments.

A groundbreaking fertility seminar was presented in 2010 by Dr. Ting Ting Zhang at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) in San Francisco, California. She presented some of the most current findings on incorporating acupuncture and herbal medicine with biomedical findings. Dr. Ting Ting Zhang successfully translated basal temperature charts into differential diagnostics and demonstrated how the charts clearly delineate TCM concepts such as Yin and Yang deficiency of specific Zang-Fu organs. Dr. Zhang was granted a special visa from the Chinese government to bring this vital information to the United States. Another image of a pregnant woman.

Dr. Zhang is the Gynecology Department Chair of Yue Yang Hospital at the Shanghai University of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and is renown for her experience in the field of infertility. Dr. Zhang unveiled new ultrasound and hormone testing research revealing that special Chinese herbal medicines promote ovulation and egg development, increase sperm motility and count, and prevent miscarriage. Biomedical data confirms that Chinese herbal medicine greatly increases the conception rate of women undergoing artificial insemination. Incorporating approaches developed by Dr. Tai, Dr. Zhang demonstrated a significantly high rate of clinical success in reversing infertility. Dr. Zhang noted that “infertility is a symptom, not a disease.”

Dr. Zhang presented Chinese medicine differential diagnostics in relation biomedical findings. Basal body temperature (BBT) charts were revealed to express a process of emerging Yin Essence in the first 12 days of a menstrual cycle followed by a powerful Yang stage. Dr. Zhang also introduced methods for analyzing hormone tests. For example, high FSH is linked to Yin Deficiency and high LH is linked to Yang Deficiency.

Common conditions leading to infertility are Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, and Blood Stasis. For women, the main concern is to harmonize the menstrual cycle. Dr. Zhang presented important herbal formulas to address many clinical scenarios and included special herbs to promote ovulation and nourish the fetus. She presented herbal remedies to prevent anti-sperm antibodies such as AsAb and other autoimmune system disorders from leading to infertility. Dr. Zhang detailed the exact herbs needed to promote egg maturation and those needed to facilitate uptake and transport of eggs into and through the fallopian tube.

The last several years has seen continued research into the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in reproductive medicine. Luminaries such as Dr. Zhang have helped by organizing and clinically implementing the latest findings into protocols for increasing positive patient outcomes. At HealthCMi, we expect to see increasing attention given to this import aspect of medicine.