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The effects of acute stress on attentional networks and working memory in females

Stone, C, Ney, LJ, Felmingham, K, Nichols, D ORCID: 0000-0002-8066-3132 and Matthews, A ORCID: 0000-0003-2961-9125 2021 , 'The effects of acute stress on attentional networks and working memory in females' , Physiology and Behavior, vol. 242 , p. 1 , doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113602.

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Neurobiological models indicate that acute stress facilitates bottom-up stimulus processing while impairing top-down executive control. To test this hypothesis, the present study investigated the effects of acute stress on behavioural and electrophysiological measures of human attentional networks, and behavioural measures of working memory. Forty-five female participants (Mage = 22.1, SD = 2.4) performed the Attention Network Test (ANT) and the n-back task before and after the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST; n = 23) or a non-stressful MAST-placebo (n = 22). Subjective distress ratings and salivary cortisol concentrations revealed a successful stress induction. Increased salivary cortisol at baseline was associated with slower reaction times across both tasks, suggesting a general detrimental effect of cortisol on cognitive functioning. Despite these findings, however, the hypothesised effects of the acute stress manipulation were not found for either task. Supplementary analyses indicated that these results were unrelated to the magnitude or duration of the stress response. Our results therefore suggest the standard version of the ANT may be insensitive to the effects of acute stress, and that higher cognitive loads may be necessary to observe stress effects on the n-back task.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Stone, C and Ney, LJ and Felmingham, K and Nichols, D and Matthews, A
Keywords: acute stress, attentional networks, workng memory, EEG, ERP
Journal or Publication Title: Physiology and Behavior
Publisher: Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd
ISSN: 0031-9384
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113602
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© 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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