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Stress-induced impairment in goal-directed instrumental behaviour is moderated by baseline working memory

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Abstract

Acute stress has been found to impair goal-directed instrumental behaviour, a cognitively flexible behaviour that requires cognitive control. The current study aimed to investigate the role of individual differences in baseline and stress-induced changes in working memory (WM) on the shift to less goal-directed responding under stress. To this end, 112 healthy participants performed an instrumental learning task. In phase 1, participants learned instrumental actions that were associated with two different food rewards. In phase 2, one of these food rewards was devalued by eating until satiety. Before the extinction test in phase 3, participants were subjected to the Maastricht Acute Stress Test or a no-stress control procedure. Results showed that the effect of stress on instrumental behaviour is modulated by baseline, but not stress-induced changes in WM capacity. Specifically, only at low baseline WM capacity did stress induce a shift to less goal-directed behaviour. These findings highlight that our cognitive resources are limited and for those who already have limited resources at baseline taking into account motivational value is impaired under stress.

    Research areas

  • Goal-directed behaviour, Instrumental learning, Stress, Working memory, MAST, PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESS, PREFRONTAL CORTEX, DRUG-ADDICTION, TEST MAST, HABITS, BRAIN, PERFORMANCE, RESPONSES, MODULATION, MECHANISMS
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Volume158
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019