Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Core Strength & Stress

The fight-or-flight stress response begins in the emotional brain with the panic button amygdala.  This threat processor has been on overdrive during the pandemic.  When the amygdala detects a threat, it signals the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline. 

In a brain mapping study, researchers have discovered a complex network of brain cells that is involved in the stress response and adrenaline release.  They found that the motor areas of the brain, those that control the body’s core, also connect to the adrenal glands.  By revealing this direct connection between the core and the stress response system, this research supports other evidence that strengthening your core has a positive impact on stress.  Researchers theorize this may explain why yoga and Pilates are successful stress management practices.

Takeaway: Consider strengthening your core to help with stress management.  This is a great time to start yoga or Pilates, or to do planks between Zoom meetings (Hat Tip to my Teaching Assistant for this idea).


James Hamblin, Why One Neuroscientist Started Blasting His Core, The Atlantic, Aug 24, 2016,

Richard P. Dum, David J. Levinthal, and Peter L. Strick, Motor, Cognitive, and Affective Areas of the Cerebral Cortex Influence the Adrenal Medulla, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Aug 15, 2016,

Note: This study required the sacrifice of monkeys, which I chose not to describe here because it may be upsetting to animal lovers.

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