Stereotyped Behavior and Stress

  • Elliot S. Valenstein


It does not require a very extensive exposure to the relevant literature to appreciate the apparent impossibility of defining stress very rigorously (Mason, 1975a). Stress cannot be defined in terms of the physical properties of the eliciting stimulus as cognitive and emotional factors can change the impact of any stimulus on the same person or animal (Lazarus, 1967; Mason, 1975b). It is equally difficult to define stress as a specific set of physiological responses. Lacey (1967), for instance, has repeatedly pointed out that each “stressor” tends to elicit its own automatic response pattern, while at the same time there is a tendency for individuals to have unique physiological response profiles. Mason (1975b), who measures gonadal, thyroidal, growth hormone, adrenal medullary and insulin activity as well as pituitary-adrenal cortical changes, also emphasizes the specific adaptive pattern of hormone response depending upon the type of stress. Selye’s (1974) definition of stress as the nonspecific response of the body to any demand (whether pleasant or unpleasant) is likely to be too broad (and also too restricting in its focus on only a few responses) to continue to be useful in the future. Perhaps, agreement can be reached only on a very general statement such as an organism is subjected to stress when its adaptive mechanisms are taxed beyond their normal range of functioning either because of the intensity or the duration of the response required. In spite of the difficulty in defining stress, there may still be value in bracketing a field that concentrates on the consequences of straining adaptive mechanisms. Certainly, Selye (1956) has proven the value of such a focus in his highly productive career.


Brain Stimulation Stereotyped Behavior Nigrostriatal System Hypothalamic Stimulation Cerebellar Stimulation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elliot S. Valenstein
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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