Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Volume 83 June 1990

Informational stress: discussion

A Restian MD


Tractorol Hospital, Brasov, Romania

Keywords: stress; informational aetiology; informational pathogenesis

Summary Stress can be caused by a multitude of factors requiring the capacity for adaption by the organism. As well as physical, chemical and biological factors, information may also become a stressor in certain circumstances. Stress may be induced just as well by too little as by too much information, and by the quality of the information.

Introduction Selyel described the general adaptation syndrome and showed that several internal and external factors are able to induce certain unspecific changes characteristic of the stress reaction. These unspecific changes are caused by certain common conditions that are necessary in any situation for the organism. For instance, in order to develop a response to various strains the organism needs increased energy consumption. On the other hand, the organism has only a limited set of possible responses to the large number of internal and external factors that may influence it. Rees2 showed that internal or external changes may become stressors if by their duration or intensity they put a strain on the adaptation capacity of the organism. For this reason, almost any mental, physical, chemical or biological factor may become a stressor. Information may also become a stress factor3. Informational aggression. syndrome is characterized by fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and irritability. This led us to the conclusion that certain types of stress, such as mental stress, actually have an informational aetiology and those that do not have an informational aetiology at least have an informational pathogenesis. Peculiarities of information Information is different from substance and energy for which it is sometimes mistaken. While substance is the mass or the volume and energy is the force or the field, information is the mode in which they are distributed in space and time (Figure 1). Therefore, information becomes the expression of order and organization or rather of the novelty that a disorder or a reorganization may bring about. It is measured in special units and has its own laws oftransformation and conservation5. Substance is measured in grams, energy is measured in calories whereas information is measured in bits. A bit is the amount of information supplied by an experiment with only two possi'ble and equally probable results. Hence, the information produced by a certain signal depends not on the signal duration or intensity but on the probability of its emergence. So information cannot be measured with gauges or instruments, like substance and energy are, but is only inferential from formulae. The simplest


Figure 1. Any object or phenomenon, and therefore stressors, contains, besides substance and energy, a certain amount of information that represents another aspect of reality

formula is Hartley's6, where the information I produced by a signal k depends on the probability of its emergence p, according to the relation I=logl/pk. The information supplied by a message may be calculated by Shannon's formula7 I=pk log pk. But information represents not only the novelty, but also the incertitude it eliminates. That is why the real information received by the organism can be calculated according to Frank's formula8; I=pk * log wk where p represents objective probability and w represent subjective probability that the organism attaches to the respective signals. Of course, any stressor includes simultaneously a certain amount of substance, energy and information, but sometimes only one of these is predominant. For instance, the energetic aspect may prevail in physical stress and the information aspect in mental stress. Certain types of stress may therefore have a predominantly energetic aetiology, others a substantial aetiology and others an informational one9. -

Stress of informational aetiology To- develop- the regulation processes on which its health depends, the organism needs not only subsance and energy but also information. According to Ashby'0 the regulation is proportional to the amount of information received. Information ensures the efficacy of regulating processes. That is why, besides the exchanges of substance and energy, there must


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Journal of the Royal Society-of Medicine Volume 83 June 1990 381

be a permanent exchange of information between the human organism and the environment. For this purpose the organism has a series of peripheral receptors able to recognize even the slightest information-carrying variations of substance and energy. Man can receive about 107 bits of the 1011 that assail its peripheral receptors each second. Obviously, this information is not only received from the outside but also from within, concerning the condition of its organs and systems. Information is needed in order to adjust the functioning of systems and organs to the changes from outside and from within. That is why man sustains the lack ofinformation with difficulty. An information supply reduced under certain limits may entail orientation troubles, disturbances of body image, delirium or even hallucinations11. However, since the lines of communication have but a limited capacity, man cannot sustain an excess of information. We showed, as far back as 1969, that an excess of relatively neutral emotional information may lead in time to the informational aggression syndrome characterized by fatigue, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. We also showed that information may produce disorders not only by its quantity but also by its quality, its meaning and emotional value exceeds the organism's capacity of adaptation. Mental trauma acts by means of the information it supplies. The picture is still more complicated because man has means of anti-informational protection, such as the excitability thresholds, inhibition, attention, the reaction of orientation, fatigue and sleep by which it controls informational entries. The information received by man is not identical with that emitted by the source. The signals received from the outside are subject to complicated processing in order to extract the information carried and subsequently the meaning and the value of that information. For this reason, not all persons react in the same way to informational strain14. We later found that besides fatigue, anxiety, irritability and insomnia, informational strain may also induce other symptoms such as palpitations, precordial pain, tachycardia, arterial hypertension, cephalalgia, perspiration, nausea and anorexia. Animal studies have shown a whole range of endocrine and metabolic changes: rats subjected to optic and acoustic signals supplying 400 bits per minute, for 24 hours had increased blood levels of norepinephrine, 17-ketosteroids, creatinine, glucose, cholesterol and lipids. However, large variations were recorded among the rats showing and during the chronic experiment the changes had been attenuated by the adaptation of the rats to the experimental

conditions'6. Information pathogenesis of stress If some types of stress have an informational aetiology, any stress has at least an informational pathogenesis since information is the factor that finally triggers the specific neuroendocrine changes. Selyel showed that various noxious stimuli may entail an increase in the ACTH and cortisol secretion. Of course, these hormones have a role in the adjustment of the organism to the respective conditions. It is still difficult to explain just how noxious agents manage to increase ACTH and cortisol secretion since it is controlled by a negative feedback mechanism.

So, in order to induce endocrine changes, noxious agents must suppress this negative feedback. Starting from this observation, Guilleminl7 found that the feedback mechnism between the pituitary gland and the peripheral glands are controlled by the hypothalamic releasing factors. The corticotropin' releasing factor (CRF) may suppress the feedback mechanism between the pituitary and the hypothalamus. The releasing factors cannot, however, completely explain-how stremssors induce an increase in the ACTH secretion since there also is a negative feedback mechanism between the ACTH and the CRF. It was subsequently found that neuromediators are responsible for this. Buckingham'8 showed that acetylcholine stimulates the CRF secretion and Gannong'9 found that norepinephrine inhibits CRF secretion, though it still remained to be explained what induced the increase or the decrease of neuromediators at the level of the hypothalamus. In 1973 we showed that the information supplied from within or from outside the organism is the one that finally influences the synthesis of synaptic mediators and neurohormones (Figure 2). Both psychic and physical stress actually has an informational pathogenesis. In the case of mental stress, the synaptic mediator synthesis is influenced by information from the outside. In the case of physical stress, the synaptic mediator synthesis is influenced by information from within, generated by physical and chemical factors. The difference between physical and mental stress is that psychic stress has both an informational aetiology and pathogenesis whereas physical stress has only an informational pathogenesis. Physical and chemical changes induced


Yl Y2


Figure 2. Neuroendocrine changes specific to stress reaction are triggered by the information Y,, Y2, Y3 from within the organism or by the information X1, X2, X3 from outside the organisrm Having been processed, the information eventually reaches the hypothalamus H where it acts on the corticotropin releasing factor CRF secretion. The releasing factors act on the pituitary gland P with an impact on the secretion ofcertain hormones, such as the ACTH. The ACTH acts then on the adrenocortical glands A inducing an increase in the cortisol C secretion. Thus, information, from either within or outside the organism, inhibits the feedback mechanism that maintains a constant hormone secretion and reverts it to normal after informational strain has ceased


Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Volume 83 June 1990

by noxious agents generate a certain information received by the internal receptors and carried to the nervous system where it influences the neurohormone synthesis. For this reason the informational aspect also plays a special part in physical stress. There is often no need for the noxious agents to induce changes in the organism. It is enough that information from outside puts a strain on the adaptation capacity to trigger the neuroendocrine reactions of stress. Those types of stress that have both an informational aetiology and pathogenesis, such as mental stress, could be called, with good reason, informational stresses. In conclusion, we can say that information may be a stressor and certain types of stress have an informational aetiopathogenesis and others have at least an informational pathogenesis. This finding becomes very important if we keep in mind that stress can be incriminated in all human pathology. We can speak of an informational pathology induced by the perturbation of the informational processes in the same way we speak about genetic, metabolic or infectious pathology. A particularly important role in this perturbation is that of informational stress. References 1 Selye H. A syndrome by diverse noxious agents. Nature 1936;138:32-5 2 Rees WL. Stress, distress and disease. Br J Psychiatry 1976;128:3-18 3 Restian A. Le syndrome d'aggression informationnelle. Aggressologie 1969;2:85-93 4 Restian A. Les m6canismes cybertn6tiques du stress.

Cybernetica 1986;2:105-25

5 Restian A. Principiile de conservare pi de transformare a informatiei. Stud Cerc Biotehn 1980;9:51-61 6 Hartley RV. Transmission of information. Bell Syst Techn J 1928;7:555-63 7 Shannon CE. A mathematical theory of u ication. Bell Syst Techn J 1948;27:279-343 8 Frank H. Kybernetische Grundlagen der Pedagogik, Baden: Agis, 1962:60-2 9 Restian A. La m6decine informationnelle. Cybernetica

1979;1:33-46 10 Ashby WR. Design for a brain. London: Chapman-Hall, 1958:50-1 11 Burgmeister J. Privation sensorielle. ConfPsych 1970;

66:279-97 12 Rnestn A. Valoarea infoionala a psihotraumei, Rev Med Chir 1970;3:625-30 13 RestianA. Medicnaciberneticd CluJ: Dacia, 1983.236-50 14 Restian A. Transition of nervous activity from signal to information processing. Int JNeurosci 1979;4:21-30 15 Restian A. Elemente de patologie informationacd. Cluj: Dacia, 1977:110-20 16 Restian A, Daghie V, Nicolau N. Influenta solicitirilor informationale asupra secretiei de catecolamine. National Congress of Physiology, Bucharest, 1986:86-7 17 Guillemn R. Humoral hypothalamic control of anterior pituitary. Endocrinology 1955;57:599-607 nips of pituitary 18 BRikingham JG, Hodges JR Intr and plasma corticotropin and plasma corticosterone in adrenalectomised and stress. J Endocrinol 1974;63: 213-22 19 Ganong WF. Evidence for a noradrenergic system that inhibits ACTH secretion. In: Knigge KM, ed. Brainendocrine interaction. Bassel: Karger, 1972:254-66 20 Restian A. Reglares neuroendocrind prin intermediul jocului cibernetic. Stud Cerc Endocrinol 1973;5:361-71

(Accepted 2 November 1989. Correspondence to Dr Adrian Restian, Str. Aviator Sanatescu 43, Bucharest 71324, Romania)

Informational stress: discussion paper.

Stress can be caused by a multitude of factors requiring the capacity for adaption by the organism. As well as physical, chemical and biological facto...
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