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The Age of StressScience and the Search for Stability$
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Mark Jackson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588626.001.0001

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The Biochemistry of Life

The Biochemistry of Life

(p.99) 3 The Biochemistry of Life
The Age of Stress

Mark Jackson

Oxford University Press

The relationship between adaptation and disease was initially explained primarily in terms of the function or malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. However, during the middle decades of the twentieth century, scientific debates about adaptation and stress became increasingly inflected by the language and methods of endocrinology rather than neurology or psychology. The research of Selye and others, which focused on the relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the adrenal cortex in mediating chronic stress reactions, was mobilised by military authorities and clinicians eager to identify the biochemical pathways and physiological processes involved in determining the symptoms and signs of physical and psychological disease. Chapter Three analyses not only the manner in which scientists and clinicians were increasingly explaining health and disease, and indeed the mysteries and meaning of life itself, in terms of the maintenance or disruption of hormonal and biochemical balance in the face of stress, but also the depth and impact of contemporary preoccupations with equilibrium, control and social progress.

Keywords:   endocrinology, biochemistry, physiology, social equilibrium, hormones, art and science, world war II, steroids

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