Cheney Free Press -

Ulcers and zebras highlight Sapolsky's appearance


Feeling stressed? Learn more about what causes stress and stress-related illness in humans when Eastern Washington University and the Daniel and Margaret Carper Foundation present “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An evening with Robert Sapolsky,” at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 24 at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in downtown Spokane.

Sapolsky is a science and nature writer, biologist, neuroscientist, and a highly renowned stress expert. He is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya.

Making a rare appearance in Spokane, Sapolsky will be talking about his experiences and research on human stress.

As a boy in New York City, Sapolsky dreamed of living inside the African dioramas in the Museum of Natural History. By the age of 21, he made it to Africa and joined a troop of baboons. He chose to live with the baboons because they are perfect for learning about stress and stress-related diseases in humans. Like their human cousins, baboons live in large, complex social groups and have lots of time, Sapolsky writes, “to devote to being rotten to each other.”

The problem for people, as Sapolsky explains in his book is that our bodies’ stress response evolved to help us get out of short-term physical emergencies — if a lion is chasing you, you run. But such reactions, he points out, compromise long-term physical health in favor of immediate self-preservation.

Unfortunately, when confronted with purely psychological stressors, such as troubleshooting the fax machine, modern humans turn on the same stress response. “If you turn it on for too long,” notes Sapolsky, “you get sick.”

In 2008, National Geographic and PBS aired an hour-long special on stress featuring Sapolsky and his research on the subject.

A book signing in the lobby of the theater will follow the event. Admission is free for all.


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