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Implications of psychosocial stress on memory formation in a typical male versus female student sample

Cornelisse, S., van Stegeren, A. H. & Joels, M., May-2011, In : Psychoneuroendocrinology. 36, 4, p. 569-578 10 p.

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  • Implications of psychosocial stress on memory formation in a typical male versus female student sample

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DOI

Stress is known to differentially modulate memory function. Memory can be impaired or strengthened by stress, depending on e.g. the memory type and phase under study, the emotional value of the learned information and the sex of the subjects. Here, we addressed the latter and investigated the impact of psychosocial stress on long-term memory for neutral and emotional pictures and working memory in typical samples of male versus female students. In total, 77 subjects (54 women of which 39 used oral contraceptives) were exposed to either the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) or a control condition, and then engaged in a long-term memory task (emotionally arousing and neutral pictures; surprise recall after one week) and a working memory (n-back) task. During the experiment salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase levels as well as subjective affect state were assessed. As expected, stress hormone concentrations as well as subjective negative affect states increased significantly in response to the stress task. Men reacted more to the stressor in terms of cortisol responses than women, probably due to oral contraceptive use of the latter. Results show that, in male as well as in female students, memory for emotional arousing information was better than for neutral information, in both the stress and control condition. Stress enhanced recognition memory for emotional versus neutral pictures only in male subjects. Moreover, stress enhanced working memory, particularly in males, during the first block of a 2-back task. The lack of stress effects on memory in women might be explained by oral contraceptive use, leading to blunted HPA-axis responses and secondary to reduced stress effects on memory. The results emphasize that stress affects both long-term and working memory differentially in male versus female students. (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-578
Number of pages10
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume36
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May-2011
Externally publishedYes

    Keywords

  • Psychosocial stress, Declarative memory, Working memory, Sex differences, Cortisol, Salivary alpha-amylase, SALIVARY ALPHA-AMYLASE, HEALTHY-YOUNG MEN, LONG-TERM-MEMORY, WORKING-MEMORY, MENSTRUAL-CYCLE, ORAL-CONTRACEPTIVES, CORTISOL ELEVATIONS, EMOTIONAL MEMORY, SEX-DIFFERENCES, RETRIEVAL

ID: 65872138