The Brain-Based Approach to Peace
2. Stress impairs the brain, negatively impacting behavior
Brain functioning and overall brain development are a function of age, education, genetics, and environmental factors, such as stress.
Stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex, shunting blood flow away from the higher brain to the primitive, or reactive, brain—a historic defense mechanism known as the “fight-or-flight response.” Unfortunately, under chronic stress, which is increasingly endemic in the world today, the prefrontal cortex shuts down chronically and fails to develop properly. The underdevelopment and/or underutilization of the prefrontal cortex is a fundamental cause of the pervasive violence in society today.
Traumatic stress also leads to chronic hyperexcitation of the amygdala, a condition seen in millions of military combatants and civilians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such stressed individuals experience chronic fear, perceive threats where none exist, and tend to respond accordingly.