Acute consolidation stress enhances reality monitoring in healthy young adults

T. Smeets*, K. Sijstermans, C. Gijsen, M.J.V. Peters, M. Jelicic, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Source monitoring refers to cognitive processes involved in making attributions about the origins of memories, knowledge, and beliefs. One particular type of source monitoring with ample practical significance is reality monitoring, i.e., the ability to discriminate between internally vs. externally generated memories. Abundant evidence indicates that exposure to acute stress enhances declarative memory consolidation. To date, no study has looked at whether exposure to acute stress during the consolidation phase may promote reality monitoring performance. The authors examined this by administering cold pressor stress (CPS) or a control procedure to participants (N = 80) after they had either performed or only imagined performing simple motor acts, and assessing reality monitoring 24 h later. When compared with the control condition, CPS significantly elevated salivary free cortisol concentrations and enhanced reality monitoring. Stress-induced cortisol responses, however, were found not to be related to improved reality monitoring performance. Our findings are consistent with the view that post-learning stress hormone-related activity may modulate source memory consolidation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-245
JournalStress-the International Journal on the Biology of Stress
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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