Stress activates a neurochemical response in the brain that triggers a release of gluocorticoids, which is known not to be good for you cognitively. High levels of gluocorticoids are associated with such psychiatric conditions as schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer’s disease.
High levels of glucorticoids can cause damage brain nerve cells by activating an enzyme that causes oxidative stress. Even a single exposure to a high dose of glucorticoids can be sufficient enough to damage nerve cells. Previous studies that used synthetic gluocorticoids to treat autoimmune disorders showed that it can induce mood disorders, including psychosis and cognitive impairment, known as “steroid dementia” in severe cases.
The high blood pressure medication (also prescribed as an antipsychotic medication), Prazosin, appears to block the increase of glucorticoids. For someone taking a steroid, which is known to cause cognitive impairment in both rats and people, researchers hope to find a way to protect cognition by the use of the drug. For glucorticoids to be effective against PTSD the drug would need to be administered before the traumatic event.