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You know there is a Gut-Brian Axis, but how about one between your “core” and your brain!

By Jane Kuszmaul

Managing stress is something we all strive for, especially as we learn more about the relationship between stress and disease. But how can we control this pervasive part of our lives? A popular, and largely successful, method of stress management is exercise, but why exercise reduces stress is complex and unclear.

Recent research has found that the pathways which control our stress hormones in the brain are not one-directional and simple. Originally, it was thought that input would enter through our sensory organs, go to our brain, and there a pathway would be triggered to start a stress response.

This is the basic route, but the whole process is far more intricate. If the pathway only went from the brain to the rest of our body, then why would muscle movement make a difference to our brains? Turns out, the control center of our muscles in the brain (the primary motor cortex) contains a map of our body.

This control center not only controls muscles, but also the adrenal medulla, where our stress response is regulated. And the neurons associated with the adrenal medulla are on the part of the map that controls our abdominal muscles-- our “core”.

So it seems the correlation between core exercise is driven by complex connections in the brain linking our stress response to our muscle movements. What does this mean for you?

For a more complete story, check out this piece from The Atlantic on how researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute have done amazing work to uncover these newfound connections:

And in the meantime, don’t skimp on the crunches, and perhaps you’ll feel a reduction in the constant twanging of daily stressors.


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