Memory impairments following chronic stress? A critical review

M. Jelicic*, B. Bonke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Does chronic stress lead to memory impairments? Several authors hypothesized that elevated levels of glucocorticosteroids, released in the blood during sustained stress, cause damage to the hippocampus - a brain area involved in episodic memory. We reviewed evidence for impaired memory performance due to chronic stress and found that glucocorticoid excess as a result of Cushing's syndrome, atypical aging, or use of synthetic corticosteroids such as prednison is associated with hippocampal atrophy and memory dysfunction. However, studies showing reduced memory performance after acute stress suffer from methodological shortcomings. In addition, attributing memory impairments and reduced hippocampal volume in trauma survivors suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder to the effects of sustained stress appears to be problematic. We promote longitudinal research into glucocorticoids and memory functioning in individuals with stressful professions. Th is could yield more information about the, possibly deleterious, effects of stress on memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-232
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001


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