Allostasis and the Human Brain: Integrating Models of Stress From the Social and Life Sciences

Barbara L. Ganzel, Pamela A. Morris, Elaine Wethington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We draw on the theory of allostasis to develop an integrative model of the current stress process that highlights the brain as a dynamically adapting interface between the changing environment and the biological self. We review evidence that the core emotional regions of the brain constitute the primary mediator of the well-established association between stress and health, as well as the neural focus of wear and tear due to ongoing adaptation. This mediation, in turn, allows us to model the interplay over time between context, current stressor exposure, internal regulation of bodily processes, and health outcomes. We illustrate how this approach facilitates the integration of current findings in human neuroscience and genetics with key constructs from stress models from the social and life sciences, with implications for future research and the design of interventions targeting individuals at risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-174
Number of pages41
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • allostasis
  • allostatic load
  • brain
  • genes
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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