Stress and Your Body

Course No. 1585
Professor Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.
Stanford University
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Course No. 1585
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Course Overview

Feeling stressed? You're not alone. Stress is an inherent aspect of life in the 21st-century world. Regardless of the cause, stress is bound to affect you at some point during your day or week.

And stress can have tremendous negative effects on your mental and physical health. Most Western diseases that slowly get us sick—heart disease, diabetes, stroke—are worsened by stress. Chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and depression often flare up during repeated instances of stress. This makes coping with stress a critical part of how well we live.

But take heart. Because once you understand the inner workings of our stress response system and its inextricable links to all aspects of your personal health, you'll find yourself in possession of powerful knowledge that will help you understand and better deal with this common aspect of your busy life.

Now, from one of the world's foremost researchers on stress and neurobiology comes Stress and Your Body—a fascinating 24-lecture course that guides you through the psychological and psychosocial stress that is a central part of everyday life in Western society. With the guidance of Dr. Robert Sapolsky, acclaimed Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at Stanford University and one of our most popular professors, you'll explore the nuts and bolts of the stress-response system and its various effects on your body.

What, Exactly, Is Stress?

Simply put, the stress-response system is a natural, highly adaptive survival system. Imagine you're a zebra being chased by a lion across some grassy savannah. Once you've recognized the threat, your stress-response system will divert energy from storage sites throughout your body to your muscles and inhibit unessential processes like digestion and reproduction, allowing you to flee faster from danger.

For animals, of course, coping with stress isn't a big deal; once they've escaped danger, their bodies and minds soon return to a balanced state. But for humans under chronic stress, there is rarely such a return.

Why? Because, for humans, the stress response is triggered not so much by life-or-death situations as by psychological reasons it wasn't designed to combat, such as

  • traffic tie-ups that double the time it takes for you to get to work;
  • complicated home repairs you haven't gotten around to making;
  • troublesome thoughts and recurring memories; and
  • worries about the economy, the environment, and international events.

In fact, as you quickly discover in this lecture series, the chronic stress that most of us face every day can turn the stress response from a safety mechanism into a real problem for our physical and mental well-being.

At the heart of any serious discussion of the impact of chronic stress on your body and mind lie some pointed questions:

  • How does everyday stress affect the way your brain behaves?
  • Why do some people adapt to stress more easily than others?
  • What occurs at the neurological level during periods of emotional trauma?
  • Why does stress not just impact your mind (where it's rooted) but your body as well?
  • Why does stress prompt you to do certain things, like eat and sleep more (or less)?

The science behind these and other questions is captivating in its intricacies.

Explore the Biology of Stress ...

With the same dynamic teaching skills that won him the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching—Stanford's highest teaching honor—Professor Sapolsky guides you through the specific systems of your body in the search for the biological effects of stress. He first details how the stress response normally works for both humans and the hypothetical hunted zebra, then delves into what happens to these systems when the stress response doesn't shut down.

Among the specific organ systems you explore in Stress and Your Body are these:

  • Cardiovascular system: When stress hits, your blood pressure and heart rate rise, and blood is diverted from nonessential areas (like your gut) to critical ones (such as your muscles). When activated chronically, however, the stress-response system can damage your heart muscles and blood vessels.
  • Digestive system: Chronic stress can wreak havoc with your digestive system and can even shut it down. This can lead to debilitating diseases and problems with your digestion.
  • Reproductive system: Not only is chronic stress directly related to problems with reproduction, it affects the reproductive systems of men and women in different ways. Sustained stress can decrease the likelihood of ovulation and increase erectile dysfunction. For both sexes, however, libido is often greatly impaired.
  • Immune system: Your immune system is designed to protect you from all sorts of pathogens. Unfortunately, when hit repeatedly with stress, your immune defenses are often impaired, resulting in more frequent, prolonged, or severe cases of diseases ranging from mononucleosis to the common cold.

This systems approach helps you better grasp the detailed science and biology behind stress. It also allows you to draw pointed comparisons with stress's effects on individual systems of the body—sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously. You'll quickly discover that stress doesn't affect just one part of the body, but it also has a domino effect in which your entire body can become damaged by the effects of chronic stress.

You'll also get a chance to explore the physiological effects of stress on other parts of your health, including your

  • physical growth and development,
  • sleep cycle,
  • memory and judgment, and
  • pain threshold.

... and the Psychology of Stress

But the biology of stress is only one-half of the puzzle. Stress and Your Body also brings you up close and personal with the psychological underpinnings and effects of stress. There are powerful psychological factors that modulate how we respond to stress and that are instrumental in damaging not just our brains—but our psyches.

Among the psychological disorders and damaging behaviors that Professor Sapolsky explores are

  • depression, the genetics of which are indelibly linked to the genetics of one's vulnerability to stress;
  • anxiety, which is rooted in the amygdala—a part of our brain that is extremely sensitive to one class of stress hormones; and
  • addiction, which can be directly related to increased levels of stress hormones in the body, whether it's an addiction to drugs or to new sensations.

Additionally, an individual's place in society plays a key role in both the creation and impact of stress. Toward the end of the course, you'll spend some time studying the relationship between low socioeconomic status and high stress levels—along with the poor health to which they lead.

Discover the Key to Change

With Stress and Your Body, you'll be learning about this integral—for better or worse—aspect of daily life from an engaging and insightful teacher. Professor Sapolsky knows just how important it is to understand the workings of stress, but he also flavors his lectures with humor and practical tips for stress management that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.

Professor Sapolsky's unique teaching methods, in which profound insights, eye-opening concepts, and rigorous scientific support are intertwined with an informal delivery style, make the study of this topic absolutely illuminating.

"It's possible for us to change," he notes with characteristic enthusiasm at one point in Stress and Your Body. "It's hard in terms of there being no free lunch. But nonetheless, change can occur."

And the key to changing the impact of stress in your life, whether at work or at home, is a thorough knowledge of how and why it works on your mind and body. All of which you'll find right here in these dynamic lectures.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Why Don't Zebras Get Ulcers? Why Do We?
    In Professor Sapolsky's introductory lecture, get a behind-the-scenes look at the science of stress and preview the groundwork for the course ahead. What exactly happens to our bodies when we come under stress? And how is our response to stress different from that of a zebra being hunted al ong a savannah? x
  • 2
    The Nuts and Bolts of the Stress-Response
    Every time you have a thought or emotion, things change in your body. Here, explore the two factors responsible for these changes: the nervous system and hormones. Learn how these systems work, how they're regulated, and—most important—what happens to them during moments of stress. x
  • 3
    Stress and Your Heart
    Armed with the necessary background information, explore how specific organ systems suffer when faced with chronic stress. In the first of a series of lectures on this subject, learn how long-term stress can damage heart muscles, inflame and clog blood vessels, and even lead to sudden cardiac arrest. x
  • 4
    Stress, Metabolism, and Liquidating Your Assets
    The next organ system you focus on: the metabolic system. Discover how cycles of chronic stress lead to a persistent activating and storing of energy, which in turn can lead to an inefficient use of energy and play a critical role in the prevalence of adult-onset diabetes. x
  • 5
    Stress, Overeating, and Your Digestive Tract
    Focus now on the role stress plays in our gastrointestinal tracts. Why do most of us eat more during stressful periods? How does stress affect bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colons? And how does stress combine with a bacterial infection to produce a common stress-related disease: ulcers? x
  • 6
    Stress and Growth—Echoes from the Womb
    The first of two lectures on stress and child development takes you inside prenatal and postnatal life. Using two extraordinary examples, Professor Sapolsky reveals the ways a fetus can respond to the environmental stressors of its mother, and how different parenting styles can affect the stress levels of young children. x
  • 7
    Stress, Growth, and Child Development
    Investigate how chronic stress can disrupt the growth of young children by focusing on stress dwarfism and the connection between stress and low growth hormone levels. Also, learn how mid-20th-century experiments with monkeys proved how important love—and not just nutrients—is in raising less-stressful children. x
  • 8
    Stress and Female Reproduction
    Get an insightful overview of the multifaceted effects of stress on the female reproductive system. Some of the topics you explore are the intricate relationships between stress and fertilization, ovulation, spontaneous miscarriages, high-tech in vitro fertilization, and the strength of the libido. x
  • 9
    Stress and Male Reproduction
    Despite being simpler than its female counterpart, the male reproductive system is just as vulnerable to chronic stress. Here, discover how stress leads not to a major decrease in testosterone so much as an increase in erectile dysfunction (with a focus on two of the most common symptoms: impotency and premature ejaculation). x
  • 10
    Stress and Your Immune System
    Turn now to the relationship between stress and your immune system. After mastering the basics of how this system works, delve into how frequent stressors can result in flare-ups of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, can increase your vulnerability to infections like the common cold and herpes viruses, and more. x
  • 11
    Stress and Cancer
    Can an increase in stress actually cause cancer? Can it cause a relapse among patients in remission, or speed up the rate of a cancer's progression? Professor Sapolsky offers his insights on these and other controversial questions and myths about the possible links between stress and cancer. x
  • 12
    Stress and Pain
    Stress and pain have an intriguing relationship: Stress can increase your sensitivity and resistance to pain, while pain constitutes its own particular stressor. Explore this fascinating bidirectional relationship, and expand your knowledge of how both balanced and stressed minds and bodies react to all varieties of pain. x
  • 13
    Stress, Learning, and Memory
    Memory—whether implicit or explicit—is an essential part of everyday life. So it's all the more important to understand how it's affected by stress. This lecture explains the science behind how short-term stress enhances memory and learning, while chronic stress may actually work to kill neurons in the hippocampus. x
  • 14
    Stress, Judgment, and Impulse Control
    In addition to affecting the hippocampus, stress can prove harmful to the frontal cortex as well—the seat of behavioral regulation. As in previous lectures, discover what happens to this essential part of the brain when it comes under attack from chronic stress. x
  • 15
    Stress, Sleep, and Lack of Sleep
    Most of us don't get as much sleep as we should. Yet the amount of sleep we get is highly intertwined with how our bodies deal with stress. Investigate why high levels of stress disrupt not only how long we sleep—but the quality of sleep's vital restorative powers as well. x
  • 16
    Stress and Aging
    As you age, your ability to deal with stress decreases. What's more: Lots of stress throughout your lifetime can accelerate aspects of aging. Here, examine a series of intriguing experiments and studies that explain the science behind these two views about the intersection between stress and aging. x
  • 17
    Understanding Psychological Stress
    Why are some stressors more unbearable than others? This lecture introduces you to three powerful psychological factors that work to modulate the stress response: having an outlet, taking advantage of social support, and having predictive information about when and how long a stressor will occur. x
  • 18
    Psychological Modulators of Stress
    Conclude your look at ways to modulate the stress response by looking at two subtler variables: your control over the stressor, and your interpretation of whether the stress is getting better or worse. You also see why, despite being enormously powerful, these variables can work only within certain parameters. x
  • 19
    Stress and the Biology of Depression
    Turn to the realm of mental health with this close look at the ties between stress and major depression—one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Start with an overview of the disorder's symptoms before delving into the particulars of its neurochemistry and neuroanatomy. x
  • 20
    Stress and the Psychology of Depression
    To truly understand clinical depression, you need to grasp its psychological aspects as well. In the second lecture on stress and this prevalent disease, explore the pivotal role stress hormones play in depression. Then, use your newfound knowledge of stress to knit together the psychological and biological models of depression. x
  • 21
    Anxiety, Hostility, Repression, and Reward
    Anxiety disorders, feelings of intense hostility, a decreased capacity for pleasure, and a repressed or addictive persona are just a few of the many distinct effects that chronic stress can have on an individual's personality and behavior. The ways these psychological disorders emerge are the subject of this fascinating lecture. x
  • 22
    Stress, Health, and Low Social Status
    How strong a role does socioeconomic status play in what stressors you're exposed to, as well as your potential for chronic stress? It's a provocative question whose answer Professor Sapolsky reveals in this penetrating look at the characteristics and effects of psychosocial stress on both primates and humans. x
  • 23
    Stress Management—Clues to Success?
    Before learning tips to manage chronic stress, it's essential to understand why certain individuals cope better with stress—both physically and mentally—than others. Discover that the key lies in grasping predictors of successful aging, including a position of respect, a resilient personality, a healthy lifestyle, and a realistic approach to life's challenges. x
  • 24
    Stress Management—Approaches and Cautions
    Exercise. Meditation. Social support. Religious beliefs. In this concluding lecture, learn how these and other outlets can potentially help you manage life's everyday stressors—both biologically and psychologically. Regardless of how many stressors you deal with daily, all of us, according to Professor Sapolsky, have the potential to keep them in perspective. x

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Your professor

Robert Sapolsky

About Your Professor

Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Stanford's School of Medicine. Professor Sapolsky earned his A.B. summa cum laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from The Rockefeller University in New York. He is also a research associate at the Institute of...
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Stress and Your Body is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 115.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Think Mining Course Puts order to problems and some solutions to stress. Well worth the time .
Date published: 2014-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not just the stress in the body is covered. Very informative and delivered with a sense of humor. Professor doesn't even need to use notes he has the subject so well mastered.
Date published: 2014-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr Sapolsky Delivers Great Information The information presented in this course is a must know for everyone. The idea that stress is all in your head has been accurately investigated by Dr. Sapolsky. He is quite knowledgeable in the fields of neuroscience and biology. As a neurospsychologist and educator, I could tell that Dr. S was not a great fan of psychology; however, he did a brillant job integrating psychology into the explanation of the biological components of stress and depression. His expertise in of the subject was demonstrated throughout each lesson. As a lecturer of sometimes mundane and boring topics, I found that you have to be innovative in your teaching style to captive your audience. In other words, Dr. S's deliver of the material was dry and insipid. However, as a scholar in my field, I valued the information.
Date published: 2014-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review of Stress and Your Body "Stress and Your Body" lecture series offers the viewer insights into the causes of stress and how stress affects us. In this sense, the course is helpful in making the viewer aware of factors that contribute to stress. However, this course is weak on strategies to deal with stress. Of the 24 lectures only the last 2 lectures focus on stress management. Even in these last 2 lectures on stress management, Professor Sapolsky gives only a few pointers on stress management with a broad brush; he does not go deep enough into stress management in order to help the viewer apply principles of stress management in a meaningful way. The course could have been more helpful if it had broader and deeper coverage on how to effectively manage stress. However, I recommend this course for those who are interested in knowing the causes of stress and how it affects us.
Date published: 2014-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most important class I have ever watched! I'm a psychology doctoral student and have been using The Great Courses as a resource to bolster my learning. It might be fair to say that what I learned in this class is more valuable that anything I learned in my academic curriculum. Having a thorough understanding of the stress response system has greatly influenced my approach to therapy and counseling. Most importantly, it helped me to understand myself at a new level. I've learned that I have a sensitive SNS and am highly reactive to stress. Unfortunately, now I'm terrified that I'll die early from a stress related illness. But at least now I know and can thus do something about it! Seriously, if you only watch one course, this is the one that (in my opinion) will change your life forever.
Date published: 2014-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Facinating I probably learned more about how the human body works than from anything I had before. But more importantly, I began to understand why it functions as it does.
Date published: 2014-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this course! This course ranks in the top 3 of the many I have listened to over the years through the Teaching Company. Dr Sapolsky is a humorous, compelling speaker, and I found myself listening to 3-4 lectures in a day at times. I’ve heard for many years how much of an impact stress has on the body, and finally with this course someone actually explains why and specifically how stress affects physiology and the body. I was surprised by his lecture on cancer, and found the lectures on psychological stress fascinating. I will definitely look for other courses by this professor.
Date published: 2014-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Brain & Great Knowledge Dr. Sapolsky is truly a certified genius. And we are the beneficiaries of his vast knowledge on stress and the brain. Listening to him on just about any topic would surely be a great learning experience. His presentation is genial, at times humorous, and he obviously knows his subject forward and backward.
Date published: 2014-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timely and reliable With an excellent sense of humor, Dr. Sapolsky presents a wealth of information on a topic of immense importance. His review of the material is comprehensive, and presented in a most understandable manner. He is among a talented few scientists who can manage to do this without any patronizing of the listener. Much of the course is difficult to listen to, as he turns his spotlight on the many ways we are, in effect, shortening our lives by the ways we think and behave. Yet he does so gently and with no judgment. By the end, has presented remedies and safe havens for reversing the ill effects of the modern world. I plan to recommend this course to many of my patients. Thanks, Dr. Sapolsky!
Date published: 2014-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stressing the Role of Stress This "Better Living" course certainly will help fulfill that description. Dr. Sapolsky explains the biology of the stress response system, how it is critical to survival against physical stressors (such as a Zebra being chased by a lion), and how we overwork the system due to psychological stress (psychogenic stressors). After this introduction he explains all the "bad news" relating to stress for the next 20 lectures showing these negative effects on cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, growth, memory, judgment, aging, sleep, immunity, etc. systems or processes. He addresses stress management in the last 2 lectures. If you are like me and need a logical and/or scientific explanation of exactly how stress creates its negative effects to believe it, Dr. Sapolsky, a leading researcher in the field, provides it. Don't stress, he presents this in a way that any reasonably educated layman can follow. He provides the benefit of the work of leading researchers (through 2010) and is clear to explain what is proven and what is not. Much of "conventional wisdom" about the effects of chronic stress are upheld, but some is debunked. Not to spoil the plot, but the student will learn more about the role of the major villain in this saga, glucocorticords, then one ever hoped to learn. Dr. Sapolsky's presentation style is unconventional. Any professional presentation skills class will recommend not doing some of the things that Dr. Sapolsky does routinely such as put his hands in his pockets, look down at the floor, or pace back and forth. Yet he is one of the most effective presenters I have seen after taking many TGC courses. When he looks at the floor he is typically pondering a thought provoking question he has asked as he talks through the supporting data. When he is ready to deliver the conclusions he is looking straight at the camera. He doesn't seem to use the teleprompter as he doesn't need to. He has his lectures down cold and is very confident in delivering them. Only on a couple of occasions did he use the lectern and notes. His humor is rather subtle but hilarious. Occasionally his own experiences are the subject of the humor. I found myself in bursts of laughter even in the midst of the heart of the "bad news" lectures. Dr. Sapolsky is a master of cycling through vernacular that is at times quite technical and/or elegant to quite colloquial, casual and contemporary. His body language ranges from hands-in-pockets during reflective periods, to quite animated when emphasizing a point. He even gets his beard into the act, stroking it gently when he is contemplating "Let's see" thoughts. He also practices what he preaches as a neuroscientist in that he clearly understands that by using more graphic, more humorous and/or more bizarre examples to illustrate a point the student will "encode" this into their memory more easily. I watched and would recommend the video version. While many of the key illustrations are in the course guide, the photographs are not. But more than that, my concern with an audio only version is that the synergy between Dr. Sapolsky's voice inflection and his body language may be missed, and his humor may be less noticeable. The course guide is very good. The lecture summaries capture all of the key findings of the research he mentions, even though the research itself is not cited in the notes. The "Important Terms" with each lecture and the glossary at the end are excellent. The bibliography is good. Biographical notes on the researchers mentioned would have been a helpful addition. I wish I had taken this course 30 years ago and periodically since then. It is provocative, eye opening and effective. I heartily recommend this course to anyone who has ever been depressed or upset, been stuck in traffic, had bad days at work, been in a heated argument or experienced any number of other psychogenic stressors. If you haven't you either don't live in the modern world or you have a repressive personality (Lecture 21), in which case, you would also benefit from this course.
Date published: 2014-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glucocorticoids galore! (CD review) This course offers a thorough and entertaining introduction to and review of research on stress. I have worked in the field of practical stress management for decades now as a massage therapist and instructor. As such I have maintained an ongoing interest in how stress affects people and what we can do to minimize its harmful effects. Professor Sapolsky presents the information quickly and clearly, and while some might find his humor a bit corny (as I did at times), it served as self effacing and made both him and the material easier to approach. My only negative has to do with the sound quality, something I noticed for the first time in the last course I reviewed. Seems like the wireless mike that is used is either not charged or has some other issue that results in a hissing sound at times. It was less noticeable in this course and in no way interfered with being able to hear clearly and understand the lectures.
Date published: 2014-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simplified Version of Complex Material + Humor Prof. Sapolsky takes a very complicated and challenging subject matter and distills it into an understandable and extremely enjoyable course. He is so witty that I found myself more often than not thinking "Did he really just say that". I would purchase any course he taught without hesitation.
Date published: 2013-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful Dr Sapolsky is a living encyclopedia when it comes to neurobiology, genetics, anthropology, human and animal behavior. The best part is that he shares his knowledge in such a way that makes difficult concepts easy to understand, besides that sometimes he can be hilarious, keeping you engaged and entertained. Very few professors have that gift.
Date published: 2013-11-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Slow and irritating delivery Doctor Sapolsky is a board certified genius, but he needs lessons lecturing. His pace is slow, and in the first lecture he warns you as much. The explanations will be simplified. I've made it halfway through the audio CD lectures. Lectures 1-5 annoyed me intensely, since Dr. Sapolsky has a habit of repeating himself and taking forever to make his point. When he does make a point, you would hardly know it, since his lecture style is to run-on and run-on. You might not be annoyed like me by his droning up-and-down vocal melodies. This is probably a personal thing. I generally like melodic inflection. But only when it reinforces a point. Dr. Sapolsky never puts a period on a sentence, so you never know when he thinks he's made a point. Another thing: If you think you're going to learn all about stress, think again. This lecture series is a survey course in metabolism, growth, sexuality, disease, and various interesting subjects. The connection to stress is sometimes overstressed. I don't mind learning about the metabolic effects on the offspring of starved parents, but I can't easily generalize to what Dr Sapolsky calls the "chronic stress" syndrome. If you learn anything about stress in this course, you will learn that chronic stress is bad. But what the heck constitutes that? In his defense, I will say Dr. Sapolsky got some interesting mouse studies out there around Lecture 8. I like evidence more than conclusion, and he gives evidence sometimes. His droning delivery is something he can't help, and I will admit, after 12 lectures, I don't find it that annoying. But, newcomers, I warn you. Don't expect this lecture series to be a walk in the park.
Date published: 2013-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The physiology of stress I was hoping for a manual on how to deal with stress, but after watching the DVD course, I learned about sources of stress, and the body's reactions to stress. My original disappointment changed to a motivated learning experience, as this new understanding has helped me to more effectively deal with and manage my own stress. Dr. Sapolsky is excellent, and after I got used to what I initially judged to be a dry delivery, I was hanging on every word to get the nuances of the material and the little jokes. I got a lot out of this course, including a primer on modern day processes in the body.
Date published: 2013-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining and Highly Informative I usually listen to several courses in a hour hour there. I found the story told here to be so compelling that I listened to it straight through. I am amazed that stress is so pervasive in every aspect of our lives as well as the lives of animals and all sorts of organisms. Dr. Sapolsky goes way beyond just stress. I found the lecture about depression to be especially meaningful given that I have been tackling this illness for several decades of my life. I have earned several advanced degrees, but have never experienced a professor as insightful, humorous and and passionate about his subject as Dr. Sapolsky. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2013-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Straightforward and Balanced-- Wonderful! When I bought this course I was prepared to be bored out of my skull, inundated as we all are by half baked mass misinformation. I am no academic but have spent many hours over the past forty years or more studying the subject, so I was delighted to find this is the best review of the stress response, its causes, and its effects on the body that I have ever seen, and, believe me, I started with Hans Selye decades ago and have scoured much of the literature ever since. Dr. Sapolsky covers the subject in depth but-- and I find this critical-- with a conversational style in ordinary language punctuated with a delightfully dry sense of humor. I got more than a few unexpected belly laughs listening to him, and this in itself definitely lowered my own stress level during some of the more somber insights! I cannot recommend this course highly enough.
Date published: 2013-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from masterful Excellent course throughout, from choice of content, to clarity of explanations, to effective delivery. Effects of stress on the body are covered in detail, from multiple physical perspectives as well as psychological components. Professor Sapolsky's dry humor helps get the student through the bad news about stress to the ending material about how to deal with stress in all its complexity. My wife and I both highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2013-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Smart, Entertaining, and Outstanding! I ordered this course, because it was on sale and figured it would be good for me, then plugged the first six CDs into my car’s audio system with all the enthusiasm of facing a 12 hour gargling session using original flavor Listerine. Foolish me! Dr. Sapolsky is a smart and engaging lecturer who mixes serious insight with repeated laugh-out-loud moments. I, for one, was not bothered at all by the course’s emphasis on the problems caused by stress, because most of us can figure out what changes we need to make if we have a reason, and we get a lot of them here. A couple notes: 24 lectures was not enough Sapolsky for me, so I ran out and scored a couple of his books (and I’m sure I’ll be back for some more courses), and the Teaching Company really needs to get going on those Hyena lectures!
Date published: 2013-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but unbalanced... This is a good course for anyone interested in learning about stress physiology. Dr Sapolsky reviews the effects of stress on all organ systems and he shares some fascinating research from both humans and animals. In my opinion the course is unbalanced because after 23 lectures with "bad news" about stress and your body you will surely be expecting the "good news" ie what to do to manage your stress succesfully. Unfortunately, the final lecture barely reviews some coping strategies and the rest is left on the viewer to figure out. It has to be noted that Dr Sapolsky clearly sets the outline that will follow from the very first lecture, no surprises here. It is that he could devote a couple more lectures on stress management since it is indeed relevant to the course. I suggest that the interested viewer should check the excellent course The Science of Natural Healing which has a lot of information on stress management but few on stress physiology. Dr Sapolsky has a relaxed teaching style and clearly defines terminology when needed. He uses many drawings to explain complex physiological processes. He also repeats many times the information he shared a few minutes ago, a characteristic which you may find either helpful or at times distracting. He has a sense of humor which worked for me and my wife but as other reviewers stated may not work at all for you. As a physician I found his lectures on the effects of stress on reproduction very interesting. His lecture on stress and cancer is excellent and leads to unexpected conclusions. In this particular lecture Dr Sapolsky shines on how we should read the medical literature. His lectures on cognition and memory are also excellent as well as the lectures on psychological factors of stress. The culmination of the course is the lecture on socioeconomic status and stress where you will be introduced to some very interesting research. Overall, a good course for stress physiology but it would greatly benefit from a couple of additional lectures on stress management. For the latter check out Natural Healing.
Date published: 2013-02-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Did not like this course I really were eager to understand this course, could not wait to start it but was not too impressed. Too much information for ordinary people. I did not like his delivery of the material either, a bit too fast, jumping from one issue to another which sometimes did not make sense at least to me. I will listen to it again, maybe I can figure it out. Sorry.
Date published: 2013-02-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a Bad Course, But Not Good Either I really wanted to like this course. The topic was interesting; Sapolsky has a quirky sense of humor, normally a plus for me; and the content seemed to cover the right scope. Alas, I found it nearly impossible to stay focused. Sapolsky spends a great deal of time - too much time - explaining physiology. Whether you know how a particular gland functions or not, after ten minutes you'll be thinking "too much information" and looking for the fast forward. I found Sapolsky engaged in too many diversions and distractions. Often I found that I came to the end of a lecture no wiser about the topic. Finally, most of his humor just didn't work. Wisecracking about TLC having him change his sweater to create the illusion of a new professor might be amusing to the technician behind the camera, but it just didn't work. His deadpan jokes came off as self-indulgent and clunky. Nor could Sapolsky be described as engaging in this course. He seemed to be in his own little world, oblivious to the listener and not really caring if he connected or not. In the end, I did feel somewhat more informed about the subject. I don't, however, feel that the time-to-benefit ratio was worth it.
Date published: 2013-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stress & Your Body Sapolsky is an entertainer, a humorist, a scholar with keen sympathy for the layperson's understanding of neuroscience. I am listening on cd for the 2nd round. There are so many layers to his "lectures". What a guy!
Date published: 2012-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended Fascinating on any number of different levels. Excellent presentaton.
Date published: 2012-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! This was a fascinating course, and I loved how Professor Sapolsky incorporated dry humor into his presentation. Thought certain sections were better than others, but all in all, would highly recommend it.
Date published: 2012-11-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Cursing! Bought this for my high-schooler's final elective needed to graduate. In the first session, the professor was cursing. That is unacceptable.
Date published: 2012-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "When you're being chased by a lion... you have better things to do than thickening your uterine walls..." Great lectures, great advice, and great laughs guaranteed!
Date published: 2012-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative Professor Sapolsky covers the subject very thoroughly, drawing on both human and animal research. He thoroughly debunks numerous myths about stress and clearly explains the effects of stress on the body. It would have been nice if there were more lectures on how we might combat the effects of stress in our lives - that is given rather short shrift, however, that was not intended to be the main focus of the course. The primary reason I rated the course overall and the "Professor Presentation" as "Good" rather than "Excellent" is that I find Professor Sapolsky's humor and style of presentation to be annoying at times - obviously I am in the minority, and the content of the course offsets my negative feelings about his style.
Date published: 2012-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Sapolsky is the best teacher I have ever encountered. He has a sublte & quick wit. He conveys complex ideas with confidence and eloquence. This course is even superior to Biology and its origins. I love the way he summarizes concepts from previous lectures. He is a truly gifted teacher and any student would be lucky to have him. This man could teach chemistry to grade school students and be understood. Bravo, Professor Sapolsky.
Date published: 2012-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stress and Your Body This is a very interesting and complete course on how stress affects the different aspects of the body. The teacher is amazing! There's no need for notes because he repeats that which is important enough to remember but is not redunant. You'll be surprised how much happens to the body just with a thought!
Date published: 2012-04-11
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