Impairments of Spatial Working Memory and Attention Following Acute Psychosocial Stress

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Few studies have investigated the effect of an acute psychosocial stress paradigm on impaired attention and working memory in humans. Further, the duration of any stress-related cognitive impairment remains unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of an acute psychosocial stress paradigm, the Trier Social Stress, on cognitive function in healthy volunteers. Twenty-three healthy male and female subjects were exposed to an acute psychosocial stress task. Physiological measures (salivary cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure) and subjective stress ratings were measured at baseline, in anticipation of stress, immediately post-stress and after a period of rest. A neuropsychological test battery including spatial working memory and verbal memory was administered at each time point. Acute psychosocial stress produced significant increases in cardiovascular and subjective measures in the anticipatory and post-stress period, which recovered to baseline after rest. Salivary cortisol steadily declined over the testing period. Acute psychosocial stress impaired delayed verbal recall, attention and spatial working memory. Attention remained impaired, and delayed verbal recall continued to decline after rest. Acute psychosocial stress is associated with an impairment of a broad range of cognitive functions in humans and with prolonged abnormalities in attention and memory. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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