Acute stress does not impair long-term memory retrieval in older people

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Abstract

Previous studies have shown that stress-induced cortisol increases impair memory retrieval in young people. This effect has not been studied in older people; however, some findings suggest that age-related changes in the brain can affect the relationships between acute stress, cortisol and memory in older people. Our aim was to investigate the effects of acute stress on long-term memory retrieval in healthy older people. To this end, 76 participants from 56 to 76 years old (38 men and 38 women) were exposed to an acute psychosocial stressor or a control task. After the stress/control task, the recall of pictures, words and stories learned the previous day was assessed. There were no differences in memory retrieval between the stress and control groups on any of the memory tasks. In addition, stress-induced cortisol response was not associated with memory retrieval. An age-related decrease in cortisol receptors and functional changes in the amygdala and hippocampus could underlie the differences observed between the results from this study and those found in studies performed with young people.

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