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Homeostasis v2.0- A New Approach to Explaining the Stress Response

Homeostasis v2.0- A New Approach to Explaining the Stress Response

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Charles Heiskell Kope on Jan 10, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Homeostasis v2.0: A new approach to explaining the stress response
 January 7, 2011
Every person experiences the physiological effects of stress. An increase in blood pressure, anupset stomach, focused attention, and increased breathing rate are all common effects of a stressresponse. Whether it is sitting in traffic, being placed on hold, or filling out confusing tax forms, manydaily activities come with these noticeable changes in body arousal and behavior. Many people do noteven have to be in a stressful situation to experience these bodily changes. The anticipation of animportant meeting or deadline, exam, or life event may also result in the same stress response.Everyone knows these feelings, but why does this happen?Through evolution, humans have adapted to environmental stressors by developingphysiological stress response system. Due to the fact that early man did not have to worry about payingoff a mortgage or giving an important speech, the stress response system adapted to various naturalstresses that were common in an uncivilized world. This stress response system is commonly referred toas the “fight or flight” response. When faced with a predator in the wild, an animal must instantly decidewhether to fight its attacker or flee to save its life. This automatic response system is very similar in bothhumans and animals. The stress response focuses on the body’s instant need to mobilize its energysupply when faced with a threat in order to power the muscles most effectively. In civilized societywhere safety is ensured, people do not need to run from predators (with exceptions, of course) andmore commonly experience stressful situations similar to anticipating giving a speech or planning forone’s financial future. Even these events may result in the same feelings as though one were beingchased by a saber-toothed cat. However, this stress response was naturally intended to be activated fora short period of time. Chronic stresses,, such as going to a job that you hate for ten consecutive years,are very dangerous to the body and may result in several stress related diseases. For a long time,researchers thought this stress response was governed by a process called homeostasis.Homeostasis seeks to explain the stress response by comparing the body to a balance. The bodyseeks to maintain a balance between internal and external activities. When an event affects the body,the body must react in order to counter-act the event. For example, when a person gets hot, the skinperspires to moisten and cool itself. Homeostasis relies on two main ideas; that there is an optimal levelfor each bodily function and that some regulatory mechanism at the site of the event is responsible forreturning the affected system to its optimal level. This action-reaction way of looking at the stressresponse has failed to account for more complex responses from the body as a whole. First, it fails totake into account differences in optimal bodily levels in different environmental settings and second, itfails to explain the stress response in anticipation of a stressful event.A more unified bodily perspective of the stress response built on the idea of homeostasis ismore effective at explaining this phenomenon. This more unified perspective looks at bodily responsesas a whole in order to regulate the body and maintain optimal bodily levels. This concept is known asallostasis. Allostasis follows that the optimal bodily levels may be different in different conditions, forexample, from when a person is sleeping and when a person is running a marathon. Also, allostasis doesnot rely on localized regulatory control mechanisms in order to maintain optimal levels. Allostaticchange occurs on a bodily scale and may involve multiple bodily systems to restore optimal levels or toanticipate stressful events. Rather than the skin perspiring in order to cool in the homeostatic view, theallostatic view would explain this response by employing multiple body systems. The allostatic viewwould say the skin became hot and then sent impulses through the nerves to the brain. The brain’sregulatory mechanisms then send messages back to the skin to begin to perspire by drawing moisture

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