FOCUS ON STRESS
E D I TO R I A L
Focus on stress
We present a special issue focusing on recent advances in the understanding of the effects of stress on the nervous
system and behavior, as well as the role of the nervous system in regulating responses to stress.
© 2015 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
n the 100 years since Walter Cannon first described the role of the
sympathetic nervous system in the “fight or flight” response1, we
have learned a great deal about how animals respond to stress. Stress
can be defined as any deviation from homeostasis (a term also coined by
Cannon), and although often thought of as solely harmful, stress, and the
body’s appropriate responses to it, serve important roles in maintaining
health. The stress response involves intricate interactions between the
CNS, the peripheral nervous system and the rest of the body. Although
much is known about the peripheral response, research investigating
the role of the brain, as well as its interactions with peripheral s ystems,
has made great strides in recent years, especially with the advent of new
technologies allowing greater manipulation of the genes and c ircuits
involved. In this issue, we present a collection of Commentaries,
Perspectives and Reviews highlighting recent developments in the field.
One of the themes that emerges when studying stress is the idea
of an inverted U-shaped curve of responses to increasing amounts
of stress: the effects of stress on any number of biological e ndpoints
depends on its duration and intensity. On page 1344, Robert
Sapolsky discusses this and other themes that have emerged from
the study of stress over the past 100 years. Another such theme is the
importance of individual differences in stress response. Individual
differences can of course be a result of both genetic (or epigenetic)
and environmental factors. In their Review on page 1421, Heike Tost,
Frances Champagne and Andreas...