The Influence of Perceived Stress on Cortical Reactivity: A Proof-Of-Principle Study

Rosan Luijcks*, Catherine J. Vossen, Hermie J. Hermens, Jim van Os, Richel Lousberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of this study was to investigate how perceived stress may affect electroencephalographical (EEG) activity in a stress paradigm in a sample of 76 healthy participants. EEG activity was analyzed using multilevel modeling, allowing estimation of nested effects (EEG time segments within subjects). The stress paradigm consisted of a 3-minute pre-stimulus stress period and a 2-minute post-stimulus phase. At t=3 minutes, a single electrical stimulus was delivered. Participants were unaware of the precise moment of stimulus delivery and its intensity level. In the EEG time course of alpha activity, a stronger increase was observed during the post-stimulus period as compared to the pre-stimulus period. An opposite time course effect was apparent for gamma activity. Both effects were in line with a priori expectations and support the validity of this experimental EEG-stress paradigm. Secondly, we investigated whether interaction effects of stress and coping, as measured with the Perceived Stress Scale-10 questionnaire (PSS-10), could be demonstrated. A higher perceived stress score was accompanied by a greater increase in delta- and theta-activity during the post-stimulus phase, compared to low scores. In contrast, low coping capacity was associated with a stronger decrease in slow beta, fast beta and gamma activity during the post-stimulus phase. The results of the present article may be interpreted as proof-of-principle that EEG stress-related activity depends on the level of subjectively reported perceived stress. The inclusion of psychosocial variables measuring coping styles as well as stress-related personality aspects permits further examination of the interconnection between mind and body and may inform on the process of transformation from acute to chronic stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0129220
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2015

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