Stress and selective attention: Immediate and delayed stress effects on inhibition of return

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The relationship between attention and stress is far from understood. In fact, some studies reported better attentional selection during and after stress, some studies reported worse attentional selection, and some studies reported no effects of stress on attentional selection at all. We argue that given the complexity of both concepts more data are needed as to ultimately understand this relationship. Here we use an established attentional task that yields the inhibition of return (IOR) effect which is assumed to tap attentional control of oculomotor behavior. Participants were stressed with a Cold Pressor Test (CPT) and immediate and delayed effects of stress on hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation and IOR were analyzed. IOR was neither by immediate nor by delayed after-effects of the CPT stress procedure modulated, instead, we observed reliable and significant IOR in all experimental conditions. Attentional control of oculomotor behavior is therefore not altered after CPT stress, nor related to the post-stress activity of the HPA axis.

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