ADRA2Bgenotype modulates effects of acute psychosocial stress on emotional memory retrieval in healthy young men

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Previous studies have shown that acute psychosocial stress impairs retrieval of declarative memory with emotional material being especially sensitive to this effect. A functional deletion variant of the ADRA2B gene encoding the α2B-adrenergic receptor has been shown to increase emotional memory and neural activity in the amygdala. We investigated the effects of acute psychosocial stress and the ADRA2B allele on recognition memory for emotional and neutral faces. Fourty-two healthy, non-smoker male volunteers (30 deletion carriers, 12 noncarriers) were tested with a face recognition paradigm. During encoding they were presented with emotional and neutral faces. One hour later, participants underwent either a stress (“Trier Social Stress Test (TSST)”) or a control procedure which was followed immediately by the retrieval session where subjects had to indicate whether the presented face was old or new. Stress increased salivary cortisol concentrations, blood pressure and pulse and impaired recognition memory for faces independent of emotional valence and genotype. Participants showed generally slower reaction times to emotional faces. Carriers of the ADRA2B functional deletion variant showed an impaired recognition and slower retrieval of neutral faces under stress. Further, they were significantly slower in retrieving fearful faces in the control condition. The findings indicate that a genetic variation of the noradrenergic system may preserve emotional faces from stress-induced memory impairments seen for neutral faces and heighten reactivity to emotional stimuli under control conditions.

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