The portion of the vertebrate nervous system that controls the “stress response” –the sympathetic NS - serves a critical function, aiding in survival and enabling great feats to be accomplished: the ability to suddenly outrun a fast and hungry predator, or fight off a threatening competitor even if out-sized or out-numbered. Generally, this response is activated in emergency situations that require an animal to “fight” or take “flight”.
Humans often activate the stress response even when no external threat or challenge is present – we can sit in a chair and just thinking about something irritating or stressful can stimulate our sympathetic nervous systems to produce adrenaline, increase heart rate, and activate other related reactions. When we do that over extended periods there are impacts on many aspects of our physiology that can affect overall health. In this class we will learn about the “fight or flight” response, and how it affects the body when engaged short and long-term.
We will read the book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, as well as recent published studies on human stress. For the latter, we will focus on research into the relationship between physiological stress and socioeconomic conditions, delving into what we know about the intersection of health, wellness and social justice. Thus, we will consider not only the impacts of stress on the physiology of humans as individuals, but also how these impacts vary across our society.
In addition, each week we will discuss and practice a variety of healthful techniques for managing stress in our daily lives.
No prerequisites. Open to all majors. Normative number of units awarded for the class is 3.
Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping - Now Revised and Updated Holt