The influence of early life stress on the integration of emotion and working memory

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Early life stress (ELS) impacts emotional and cognitive competences. We aimed to investigate whether the effects of ELS on working memory (WM) performance depend on the valence of the stimuli.


Between January and October 2015, we recruited (N = 31) healthy subjects with (N = 15) and without (N = 16) ELS experiences. Participants performed a WM-task with emotional stimuli.


Results show a trend towards decreased WM accuracy in subjects with ELS experiences (p = .06) with increased WM accuracy (p = .08) and an altered pattern of BOLD responses in the left posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)/precuneus (p < .001) and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) (p < .01) in response to negative stimuli.


The small sample size and potential confounding factors should be considered when interpreting the results.


Our data suggests that negative valence influences cognitive performance and brain activity in subjects with ELS experiences.

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