Cold pressor stress impairs performance on working memory tasks requiring executive functions in healthy young men

D. Schoofs*, O.T. Wolf, T. Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The current study investigated the effects of cold pressor stress (CPS) on 2 working memory (WM) tasks differing in the demand they put on maintenance and executive processing. For this purpose 72 healthy young men were exposed either to a stress group or a nonstressful control group. Subsequently, WM performance on the O-Span task (Turner & Engle, 1989) and the digit span task was assessed. Salivary cortisol was measured before and 2 times after the treatment as a marker of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. Results revealed a significant performance impairment of the O-Span and the digit span task backward in stressed subjects that correlated negatively with CPS-induced cortisol increases. Digit span forward was neither affected by CPS nor related to the ensuing cortisol increases. These results indicate that acute stress impairs WM performance for task requiring executive functions that operate on the stored material but not for WM tasks that only require maintenance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1066-1075
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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