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Behav Neurosci. 2014 Aug;128(4):482-93. doi: 10.1037/a0036687. Epub 2014 May 19.

Postlearning stress differentially affects memory for emotional gist and detail in naturally cycling women and women on hormonal contraceptives.

Author information

1
Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California.
2
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine.

Abstract

Sex differences in emotional memory have received increasing interest over the past decade. However, to date, no work has explored how a postlearning stressor might modulate the influence of sex hormone status on memory for gist and peripheral detail in an emotional versus neutral context. Here, we tested 3 predictions. First, compared with naturally cycling (NC) women in the luteal phase, women on hormonal contraception (HC) would have significantly blunted hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal reactivity to physical stress. Second, postlearning stress would enhance detail and gist memory from an emotional story in NC women, and finally, postlearning stress would not affect emotional memory for details or gist in HC women. Healthy NC and HC women viewed a brief, narrated story containing neutral or emotionally arousing elements. Immediately after, cold pressor stress (CPS) or a control procedure was administered. One week later, participants received a surprise free recall test for story elements. NC women exhibited significantly greater cortisol increases to CPS compared with HC women. NC women who viewed the emotional story and were administered CPS recalled the most peripheral details overall and more gist from the emotional compared with the neutral story. In HC women, however, the postlearning cortisol release did not affect memory for gist or peripheral details from the emotional or neutral story in any way. Additionally, NC and HC women performed similarly on measures of attention and arousal. These findings suggest that in women, postlearning stress differentially affects memory for emotional information depending on their hormonal contraceptive status.

PMID:
24841741
PMCID:
PMC4107172
DOI:
10.1037/a0036687
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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