2013 Volume 28 Pages 8-15
Chronic stress affects decision-making, especially shifts dominant modes of decision-making from goal-directed action to habit action. Animal studies have revealed that atrophy of the prelimbic and inflalimbic prefrontal cortex and dorsomedial striatum as well as hypertrophy of the dorsolateral striatum by chronic stress mediates the alteration of decision-making. We expanded this finding to humans by a neuroimaging study and further suggested that chronic stress causes dysfunctional regulation of physiological responses by the brain. Another study using functional and structural neuroimaging replicated these findings and further showed that stress-caused alterations of decision-making and the structure and function of the brain can be reversible once individuals are released from stress. Stress-induced habit action might mediate the association between chronic stress and diseases by leading to unhealthy behaviors such as over-consumption of tobacco and alcohol, less physical activity, and addition to drugs. Further studies are needed to clarify detailed mechanisms by which chronic stress causes alterations of the brain and decision-making, and possibility of effective preventions for maladaptive influences on health.