Stress impacts both quality and length of life (Bowman, 2005; Sapolsky, 1998), but the stress of learning is yet to be understood. Recent researchers attempt to explain how stress can both increase and hamper learning, but no studies were found that linked learning stress to life long stress. Until recently no technologies could measure the biophysical variables in normal activities of life. Invasive technologies made it difficult to study people in vivo. The Allostatic Load Theory provides a foundation for the study as learning begins at the earliest stages of life and continues until old age (Alfarez, Wiegert, & Krugers, 2006; McEwen, 1998). Research indicates stress over long periods induces a variety of chronic diseases (Kiecolt-Glaser, McGuire, Robles, & Glaser, 2002; Blair, Granger, & Raza, 2005). Weight gain, hypertension, osteoporosis, immunosuppression, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease are a few complications of long term stress (Karlamangla, Singer, McEwen, Rowe, Seeman, 2002). The ultimate result is death. Stress may be the largest public health issue for the new century.
Allostasis was first described by Sterling and Eyer (1988) to explain the constant biophysical change occurring to meet perceived and anticipated challenges. McEwen and Stellar (1993) developed a model describing how stress reactions may be both adaptive and life-threatening. The model describes the results of repeated stress reactions. The long term effect of continuous hormone release produces homeostasis in the immediate situation but can wear down the body.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Stress: Physiological and psychological changes occurring during learning events.
Myocardium: Heart muscle
Sigh: An inspiration that measures 20% over the mean inspiration.
Stress: The unspecified physiological reaction to aversive stimuli.
Repeated measures: A multiple ANOVA of variables over time performed in SPSS
Ambulatory measurement device: A data gathering instrument that can be worn during everyday experiences. The device gathers biophysical data for later transmission or reading.
LifeShirt®: A wearable ambulatory monitoring device produced by Vivometrics, Inc. that measures 30 cardiopulmonary variables. FDA approved for sleep studies.
Personal Digital Assistant: A microcomputer that fits into the palm of the hand.
Tidal Volume: The amount of inspiration of regular breathing.
Cortisol: A glucocorticoid regulated by the adrenocorticotrophic hormone that plays a major role in stress, learning, and memory processes underlying behavioral adaptation.
Eustress: A change in biophysical or psychological variables that is considered good.