Campus News

Bruce McEwen Discusses the Science of Stress and the Brain Feb. 5

Story posted January 20, 2004

A recent survey conducted by the makers of Tylenol found that such factors as lack of time, work, the economy, and terrorism have Americans more stressed out than ever.

According to a book co-authored by neuroscientist Bruce S. McEwen, studying the brain could lead to "The End of Stress As We Know It."

McEwen will discuss the science behind stress in Bowdoin College's Arnold D. Kates lecture at 8 p.m., Thursday, February 5, in Cleaveland Hall, Room 151, on campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

McEwen's area of expertise is the human brain, and one focus of his lab's research is the nature of stress and its physiological effects.

According to McEwen's book (co-authored with Elizabeth Lasley), stress is a genetic response to dangerous situations that is designed to protect us from that danger. (For example, if you come face-to-face with some physical threat, your stress level will spike, and you'll run away.)

But instead of protecting us from danger, stress wears our bodies down so much that our health is compromised, and we become more susceptible to a variety of diseases.

McEwen suggests, however, that through understanding the science of stress and its effects on brain function, it is possible to channel the energy manifested in stress in more positive directions.

McEwan, a neuroscientist and neuroendocrinologist, is the Alfred E. Mirsky Professor and head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at the Rockefeller University.

He is also a vocal proponent of the promotion of science and science education for the general public, especially children. It was through his efforts and interest in scientific outreach that Brain Awareness Week was created to advance public awareness about the progress, promise, and benefits of brain research (this year Brain Awareness Week is scheduled for March 15-21).

He is a summa cum laude graduate in chemistry from Oberlin College, and earned his Ph.D. in cell biology at The Rockefeller University. After postdoctoral studies in neurobiology in Sweden, he returned to Rockefeller to work with psychologist Neal Miller.

He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. He served as dean of graduate studies from 1991-93 and as president of the Society for Neuroscience in 1997-98.

He is a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, in which he is helping to reformulate concepts and measurements related to stress and stress hormones in the context of human societies.

The Arnold D. Kates Lecture Fund was established at Bowdoin in 2000 by Dr. Marc B. Garnick '68 and his wife Dr. Barbara Kates-Garnick. It supports lectures, seminars or colloquia at Bowdoin on scientific topics, with a preference for topics in the biological sciences or aspects related to the health sciences, with emphasis on individuals who have pursued interesting and novel careers in which science is a component.

For more information call 725-3257.

(Note to Bowdoin students, faculty and staff: Bruce McEwen will be the Common Hour speaker on Friday, February 6, at 12:30 p.m., in Kresge Auditorium. McEwen's Common Hour talk will be "Stressed or Stressed Out: What's the Difference?" Common Hour is open only to the campus community.)

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email