Stress ...can mental~emotional stress really impact our thinking?

In an article in Scientific American April 2012, "This is Your Brain in Meltdown", by Amy Arnsten and colleagues offers scientific evidence of this.  You can read the entire article at this link while it remains posted:

The article delineates recent neurophysiological evidence of how a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (the executive center of the brain) is disengaged during periods of stress that can significantly reduce our ability to think and reason clearly. The researchers describe the clinical effects of stress on the limbic system (amygdala, hypothalamus and other nearby neural structures) and how the prefrontal cortex's control is diminished temporarily.

I found this article interesting and mention it here because it is consistent with my clinical experience and how I evaluate and treat emotional stress on my patient's.

Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  ...signs and symptoms often include:
  • Hyperarousal
  • Persistent behavior
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Re-experience of trauma(s)
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Alcohol and or drug abuse

Sleeplessness issues ...follow this link to another page.

Memory it like the search function accessing computer data?
NO,  our brain stores and retrieves via a "content-addressable memory"
It is believed that every neuron connects to at least 10,000 other neurons and is only three synapses (connections) away from accessing information from any of those 10,000 neural coded memories.  That's like looking out in a crowd of 10,000 people and then searching for one individual.  Our brain only needs at most three synaptic links to recall the visual memory for the search.  No present day computer comes close to that search/recall ability.
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Stress it effects our thinking