Mohammad Jodeiri-Farshbaf, a biology major, presented his research at the Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition.
According to Merriam-Webster, stress is a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in life, work, etc., or something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. Stress can cause headaches, sleeplessness and anger and may contribute to heart disease and mental disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
To say 2020 has been an especially stressful time is an understatement. With the COVID-19 pandemic still an ever-present threat and the holidays around the corner, now is a good time to focus on ways to reduce stress.
Through his research, Mohammad Jodeiri-Farshbaf, a doctoral biology student in Texas Tech University's College of Arts & Sciences, has found that a hormone secreted during exercise can suppress stress-induced memory deficit.
"Stress is a threatening emotional condition that influences the function of the brain," Jodeiri-Farshbaf said. "Behavioral responses to stress are the attempt of an organism to maintain homeostasis. Acute stress is the short-term physical or psychological threat and induces memory deficit through affecting the hippocampus, which is the most vulnerable region of the brain to stress.
"Irisin is the recently discovered exercise hormone released from skeletal muscle into the blood. Irisin can reach the brain and controls the function of neurons. Irisin reduces memory impairment in Alzheimer's disease (AD) mouse models. Based on evidence, irisin could be a key indicator for the beneficial effects of exercise against acute stress-induced memory deficit."
Why research irisin?
Jodeiri-Farshbaf said he's always had an interest in neuroscience and neurobiology, so he wanted to pursue research in that field. When he came to Texas Tech, he learned more about neuropsychological disorders, such as memory deficits and anxiety behaviors.
"I think by knowing the brain and becoming more familiar with it and brain activity, we can control most of the behaviors, and we can protect our brain as the main source of signals to other organs against injuries," Jodeiri-Farshbaf said. "I'd really like to learn more and try to continue my research in this way to help society protect itself mentally and neurologically, especially this research against stress, against whatever we are experiencing from this pandemic for the last nine months."
The implications of irisin's health benefits are encouraging.
"This hormone is secreted mainly from skeletal muscle during exercise," Jodeiri-Farshbaf said. "We tried to show how this hormone and exercise can protect our brain and boost our memory in different environmental situations, such as with acute psychological stresses. We completed one part of the research and want to introduce irisin as a therapeutic agent and exercise as a good strategy to help people protect themselves against psychological stresses."
Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) Competition
Every year, Texas Tech's Graduate School hosts the Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition. Developed by The University of Queensland in 2008, the competition cultivates graduate students' academic, presentation and research communication skills.
The competition supports the capacity of graduate students to effectively explain research in three minutes or less, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience while using just one static PowerPoint slide.
Jodeiri-Farshbaf, who is minoring in neuroscience, competed in this year's virtual 3MT™ to evaluate his progress as a presenter.
"I actually competed in the competition a few years ago and I wasn't selected in the first round," Jodeiri-Farshbaf said. "This year, I was trying to evaluate my progression for presenting the details of my research. I saw that my progression was good enough to move on from the first round."
Not only was Jodeiri-Farshbaf's progression good enough to move him on to the final round, he also won the entire 3MT™ competition.
"When I found out I got first place, it was a big shock for me," he said. "To go from not making it past the first round a few years ago to winning it this year was a great feeling."
Jodeiri-Farshbaf is grateful for his experiences at Texas Tech.
"I just want to thank my adviser, Dr. Karina Alviña, because she was always helpful and encouraged me to participate in conferences, competitions and trainings," he said. "My co-adviser, Dr. Peter Keyel, also was instrumental in my success by supporting me and giving me helpful guidance. And I want to thank Texas Tech for providing a great atmosphere and learning environment from different faculty members."