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Stress Roundup

August 7, 2009

Some smells moderate stress genes in rats.


Relaxing aromas. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

For centuries, people have used pleasant fragrances like lavendar to relax. Now, new studies aim to tease out what compounds in the fragrances have the effects and how they work. Scientists in Japan have found that inhaling linalool, the main compound in lavendar and citrus, tamps down the action of over a hundred genes involved in stress when given to laboratory rats. The scientists say that the research could lead to more targeted, therapeutic uses of fragrances for a variety of conditions.

In other stress-related research, University of Buffalo scientists report that short episodes of stress may enhance memory in rats. They found that the stress boosts a brain chemical called glutamate that helped the rats learn and remember how to navigate a maze. But chronic stress suppressed glutamate, and made learning harder. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.