Is Stress Contagious?

If your roommate or significant other has been in a bit of a tizzy recently, you might be the unfortunate bearer of some of their stress. A new paper published in Nature Neuroscience found that mice can catch stress from their partners. The researchers believe the same mechanism may apply to humans as well.

Jaideep Bains led a team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary to determine the effect a mouse’s stress had on their partner. First, they separated the mice from one another. Then, they exposed one from each pair to a form of mild stress.

The team analyzed the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons of both mice to determine the animals’ stress levels. Interestingly, the brain patterns in both mice were changed in the same way, indicating both were stressed whether or not they had been exposed. This suggests the so-called naïve mouse had “caught” anxiety from the stressed mouse.

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